HOUSTON – The Harris County Elections Process is in the spotlight again after a last-minute change was announced days before a primary run-off election.
On Election Night, Harris County’s elections administrator said the plan for May 24 was simple -- to use law enforcement and deputized county employees to pick up ballot bags and voting equipment from the 260 voting locations once the polls close and drive them to the county’s elections technology warehouse in northwest Houston.
“Bring it back quickly, securely, efficiently so all of that information can be counted well before midnight,” said Isabel Longoria, Harris County’s Elections Administrator.
So when the Harris County Republican Party decided to opt out on May 18 during Wednesday’s regularly scheduled bi-partisan call, Longoria said she was caught off guard.
“We’ve been speaking with the parties, and at no point did they raise concerns about the May 7 elections and bringing back ballot boxes,” Longoria said.
“Not true,” said the chairman of the Harris County Republican Party.
“They’ve known about it since May 11. It violates the election code, and we, in fact, notified the county over a week ago on May 11 when we sent a letter to the county attorney,” said Cindy Siegel, chairman of the Harris County Republican Party.
The county’s technology warehouse was set up to process all 260 vehicles by midnight, according to Longoria.
With the Harris County Republican Party now instructing its election judges to deliver ballot boxes and equipment in person on election night, Longoria said that will no doubt have a ripple effect as the entire operation is now being moved to the NRG arena.
“It’s just adding more chaos to a system that was planned, coordinated and prepared for months and months and months. It’s going to take us longer to get those cars into NRG to get them processed and to get those results posted,” Longoria said.
The chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party said he’s disappointed and that he supports the plan, and claims this is an attempt by Republicans to sow distrust in the election process.
“They claim to talk about election integrity. I don’t know who has more integrity than the officers they claim to back,” said Odus Evbagharu, chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party.