The preliminary findings of an audit on Harris County’s November 2022 election were recently released by the Texas Secretary of State’s Office. The audit was initiated in response to a bill passed by the Texas legislature, aiming to address election-related issues in Harris County, the largest county in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law after its passage during the regular legislative session.
The audit, as published by Secretary of State Jane Nelson, pointed out multiple election failures and violations of election law in Harris County that led to a poorly executed election. Among the issues identified were discrepancies in the county’s voter registration data, insufficient supplies provided to polling places, equipment problems, and incomplete paperwork, which corroborated claims made by voters and lawsuits filed against the county.
The key findings of the audit included:
- Over 9,000 more voters in the county’s registration system than reported to the statewide voter registration system.
- Nearly 3,600 mail ballots were sent to voters that weren’t reported to the state.
- A non-compliant method for distributing ballot paper, causing disruptions in the voting process and shortages of supplies at polling locations.
- Inadequate training for election judges and clerks leads to incomplete paperwork and voting system equipment problems.
Harris County was chosen, along with three other counties, for auditing based on a 2021 legislative mandate following concerns of voting irregularities and fraud after the 2020 election. This year, Senator Paul Bettencourt’s bill specifically addressed election issues in Harris County, eliminating the elections administrator’s office and returning election oversight to the county clerk and tax assessor-collector offices.
Bettencourt emphasized that the audit acknowledged the significant problems in the November elections, resulting in legislative changes aimed at preventing such issues in the future. The discrepancies in voter counts and unreported mail ballots were labeled as serious problems. He also highlighted the distribution of ballot papers not complying with state law, leading to inadequate supplies and a disruption in the voting process.
Multiple lawsuits were filed against the county concerning election oversight and administrative failures. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, however, has consistently denied any voter fraud allegations, maintaining that the lawsuits filed against the county are without merit. As of now, neither she nor the county attorney has issued a statement in response to the audit’s findings.
The Texas Secretary of State’s Office is working with county officials to address the problems identified in the audit. They are also encouraging anyone with information about election irregularities in Harris County to submit a complaint using the online election complaint form.