Harris County selects new elections administrator ahead of November election

Harris County voting machines (KPRC 2)

HOUSTON – Five months before the next big election, Harris County has selected a new elections administrator.

After an extended Election Commission Meeting and interviewing two final candidates, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Tuesday evening that Clifford Tatum is being brought in to fill the important role.

“We are thrilled to have Clifford Tatum serve as our top elections official. His resume speaks for itself and we have received glowing reviews of his work,” said Judge Hidalgo. “I’d like to thank all the members of the Election Commission for their collaborative, bipartisan work in this thorough selection process over the past few months. The quality and integrity of our election process in Harris County is in great hands.”

Tatum most recently has served as principal and operator of a company called ECLS which stands for Elections-Cyber Security-Legal-Services. ELCS is focused on elections consulting and legal advice.

His resume includes multiple high-profile positions in the public sector, including serving as General Counsel for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) from December 2015 to October 2019.

Tuesday’s announcement comes four months after the resignation of the previous elections administrator, Isabel Longoria.

Longoria resigned shortly after the March 1 Primary Elections when 10,000 mail-in ballots were found uncounted. Longoria blamed Senate Bill 1, claiming the bill was “a direct result” of Harris County’s innovative processes, such as 24-hour and drive-thru voting during the 2020 General Election.

Her resignation went into effect on Friday, July 1, which allowed the county election committee enough time to find a replacement officer to oversee the November election.

According to Tatum’s biography on the Election Assistance Commission website and his LinkedIn profile, Tatum has also held the following roles:

  • Former Executive Director for the District of Columbia Board of Elections (October 2011 – December 2015)
  • Elections Attorney providing consulting and legal services to state, county, and local election officials across the country (March 2007 – December 2011)
  • Interim Director of the Georgia State Elections Division
  • Assistant Director of Legal Affairs for Georgia Secretary of State (September 2000 – March 2007)
  • Trial attorney – Commercial and general litigation
  • Deputy Solicitor General for City of East Point in Georgia

His EAC biography states that during his time providing consultations and legal services “He specialized in providing election officials with compliance support in meeting the mandates of the Help America Vote Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the Uniform Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, along with other Federal and state regulatory schemes enacted to regulate the elections process.”

In his roles with the state of Georgia, Tatum is described as having “assisted with the creation, implementation and enforcement of Federal and state election initiatives enacted by the United States Congress and the Georgia General Assembly.”

The biography goes on to read: “During his tenure with the Georgia Secretary of State, Tatum contributed to the development of public policy and procedures for conducting elections in the State of Georgia pursuant to Federal and state laws, acted as a legislative lobbyist for the Secretary of State, conducted administrative investigations and enforcement proceedings under the Georgia Election Code, and participated in state and national election conferences focusing on election administration and reform involving Federal and state election laws.”

Tatum graduated from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan after getting a degree in Administration of Justice from Guilford College in North Carolina.

Since he is not currently a Texas resident, the appointment to his position in Harris County will not be voted on until he meets the residency requirement to become a Texas voter. According to sources, that means he likely won’t begin work in his new position until August. Early voting for the November elections begins in October.

Tatum is set to take the reins with his official appointment in August. Harris County Voting Rights Director, Beth Stevens, will serve as interim Elections Administrator until then.

Statement issued by Harris County Democratic Party:

“Following a nationwide search, the election commission is thrilled to select Clifford D. Tatum as the county’s new elections administrator. The commission worked well together to reach our decision, and Mr. Tatum was unanimously selected in a 5-0 vote. Mr. Tatum has an impressive background in leading elections — currently with the DC Board of Elections and prior to that as general counsel for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. We are excited to bring him on board. Mr. Tatum’s elections experience — combined with a background in information security and elections law — make him perfectly suited for the Elections Administrator position, and we look forward to welcoming him to Harris County.” -- Odus Evbagharu, Harris County Democratic Party Chair

KPRC 2 reached out to the Harris County Republican Party shortly after the announcement on Tatum’s selection was made and will update this article with the GOP statement when it is available.


SEE MORE:

Harris County GOP files lawsuit against Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria over 10,000 vote count discrepancy

‘It is a very difficult job’: Support and criticism continue amid fallout from Harris County primary election issues

10,000 ballots left uncounted after unofficial results posted on election night, Harris County elections administrator says

Timeline: Inside Harris County’s history of delivering Election Day results

Harris County GOP officials criticize Isabel Longoria, alleging a failure to properly manage primary election