Photo by Van Williams.
“Free and fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy,” said Ogg in a statement. “When we get credible complaints of election irregularities, we are statutorily required to investigate. That’s why we’ve called for the assistance of the Texas Rangers.”
In an official letter to Col. Steven McCraw, executive director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Ogg specifically requested assistance, citing alleged irregularities that “potentially may include criminal conduct.”
Ogg’s request followed Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for the secretary of state, the attorney general, and the Texas Rangers to investigate “improprieties” in Harris County elections, following reports of delayed openings, malfunctioning equipment, improper procedures, and a paper ballot shortage that led to closures of some voting sites.
According to some election judges, they repeatedly called the county’s elections administration office to obtain more ballots early on Election Day, only to have office staff argue with them and delay the delivery of ballots until late Tuesday afternoon.
During a meeting of the Harris County Commissioners Court this week, Judge Elizabeth Curcek testified that despite multiple requests for ballots the elections administration failed to deliver until after closing, forcing her to halt voting at her location in Spring.
“I requested ballots twice: once at 1:31 p.m. and 3:30. Never got any until 7:45 p.m.,” said Curcek. “At 6:10 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. we turned away over 250 voters and then in the process we had to call the cops because we were harassed by voters.”
“You put us in an unsafe position by not having enough ballots.”
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum praised his election security task force for preventing violence at any polling sites on election day.
An attorney for the Harris County Republican Party, which has filed a lawsuit in state district court, said that the twenty-three locations that ran out of paper ballots were all in Republican areas of the county.
In addition to sites that ran out of paper ballots, multiple sites opened hours after the 7:00 a.m. required time. In others, equipment failures contributed to delays. At 6:30 p.m., a local district court judge ordered polls to remain open an extra hour, but many election judges now say they were not notified of the extended time.
During a second emergency hearing that night, First Assistant County Attorney Jonathan Fonbomme admitted to the district court judge that the county had not replenished paper ballots for all polling sites.
Although polls were technically open until 8:00 p.m., at around 7:30 p.m., the county released the early vote results. That potentially violated a law prohibiting revealing information before polls close, which is a Class A misdemeanor.
The court order, obtained without notifying the Texas attorney general’s office, was later stayed by the Supreme Court of Texas. While some workers have claimed the provisional ballots cast by voters in line after 7:00 p.m. were not properly segregated, Tatum insisted that the county has kept them separate pending a ruling on their validity.
According to Texas law code, failure to distribute or deliver supplies, or obstructing delivery of supplies for an election, is a Class C misdemeanor.
Although on Wednesday morning the elections administration announced the count was completed, that evening, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis (D-Pct. 1) filed suit to extend the ballot count beyond the statutory deadline of 24 hours after polls closed. The county continued to count ballots until Thursday afternoon.
Other allegations include problems with the chain of custody of both unvoted and voted ballots as well as improper procedures for handling ballot scanning failures, which may have allowed some voters to effectively vote twice.
Unofficial election totals show county Judge Lina Hidalgo with a one percent win over challenger Alexandra del Moral Mealer, and multiple criminal court judicial races hang in the balance with margins of as little as 165 votes.
During this week’s meeting of the commissioners court, Hidalgo called investigations of the county’s elections “harassment” and “dangerous.”
Earlier this year, Ogg elicited the Texas Rangers in investigating a controversial COVID-19 vaccine outreach contract that resulted in felony indictments for three of Hidalgo’s staffers. The district attorney’s office also oversaw an investigation that led to the felony indictment of conservative activist Dr. Steven Hotze.
“The results of their investigation will be turned over to a Harris County grand jury,” said Ogg. “We do this regardless of the party affiliation of the complainants. After the 2020 election, we charged three Democrats and two Republicans. It is my duty as the elected District Attorney to follow the evidence and follow the law, and I will.”
A copy of Ogg’s letter to McCraw can be found below.
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Holly Hansen is a regional reporter for The Texan living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.
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Democrat District Attorney Requests Texas Rangers for Criminal Investigation Into Harris County Election – The Texan
Photo by Van Williams.