Harris County Republican and Democratic Parties agree to hold first ever joint primary

Republican Party Chair Cindy Siegel explained her reversal of her previous opposition as regrettable but necessary to comply with a state law passed last year, Senate Bill 924.

Voting March Primary
Marie D. De Jesús, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer
People make a line to vote in the primary elections at the West Gray Metropolitan Multi-Service Center on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Houston.

In a surprise move, the Harris County Clerk's office announced the county's Republican and Democratic Parties had reached an agreement to hold Harris County's first-ever joint primary this election year. The move comes just days after county Republican leaders signaled their staunch opposition to holding a joint primary with Democrats.

County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth announced the agreement in a statement on Sunday. "I commend the Chairs of each party and their executive committees for their due diligence in arriving at an accord that addresses the challenges presented by new legislation and best serves Republican and Democratic Primary voters," Hudspeth said.

The agreement means that both Republican and Democratic voters will be able to use the same machines at the same locations for their respective primary elections. Previously, the parties conducted primary elections with shared locations but separate machines. A new state law passed last year, Senate Bill 924, would require far more polling locations, and far more resources, to conduct a primary in this fashion.

Last Tuesday, speaking at Harris County Commissioners Court, County Democratic Party Chair Mike Doyle made an open appeal to Republicans for a joint primary, saying it would save the county necessary resources. County Republican Party Chair Cindy Siegel then released a statement saying that, while she respected the performance of Clerk Hudspeth in conducting the most recent county general elections, she questioned the need for additional machines to conduct the primary elections.

Siegel released another statement following the decision to hold a joint primary, explaining her apparent reversal as regrettable but necessary to comply with the state's new law.

"This decision was not made lightly," Siegel said, "but given the restrictions of SB 924 and the guidance from the Secretary of State Elections Division, we had no other option. We will work with the clerk’s office to have a successful primary election, and we plan on maintaining as much control over our election as possible through ongoing negotiations with all stakeholders over the next couple of days."