Because it is no longer possible to trust elections in Harris County, two lawsuits were filed today against Isabel Longoria in her official capacity as Harris County Elections Administrator. Where to start?
As noted, two lawsuits were filed this morning. The first was filed by the Harris County Republican Party as cause number 202213752 in District Court 133. Click to read. The second was a bipartisan filing by Democratic candidate for County Commissioner Pct 2 George Risner, Republican candidate for County Commissioner Richard Vega, and Republican candidate for Texas Senate District 11 Bianca Gracia as cause number 202213773. Click to read.
The lawsuits are very different in nature. The HCRP lawsuit lists six specific errors in addition to other complaints. Here is the introduction and the six specific cited errors.
This action arises out of the worst election fiasco in Texas history. On March 1, 2022, the Republican and Democratic parties of Harris County held a Primary Election. Both parties contracted with, and relied on, Defendant to perform administrative and planning functions for that Primary Election. Among other things, Defendant was responsible for obtaining voting machines, delivering voting machines to polling locations, printing correct ballots, ensuring that each polling location received correct ballots, assigning election judges to polling locations, and a variety of other functions required to hold county-wide elections.
Harris County is one of the largest counties in the United States with millions of registered voters, and primary elections require extensive advance planning and preparation. To prepare properly, Defendant had to start the process months in advance. However, Defendant was appointed by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo – over the strenuous objections of Plaintiff – despite having no experience in election administration. Defendant completely dropped the ball, causing a litany of election disasters that disenfranchised voters, created significant risk of fraud and miscounting, and will likely delay final canvassing.
- Defendant issued incorrect ballots to certain polling locations, preventing voters from being able to vote for federal and state elected officials. Defendant not only failed to correct these errors after voters complained, but denied that the problem existed and blamed the issue on voter confusion.
- Defendant provided some ballots on the wrong size paper (8 ½ inch by 11 inch paper instead of 8 ½ inch by 14 inch paper). This mistake resulted in as many as 15-20 races being omitted fromthe ballots.
- Defendant failed to complete the counting of ballots within twenty-four hours of the polls closing and, despite representing that counting was complete, still has not counted all ElectionDay ballots.
- Defendant failed to deliver the required number of working voting machines and adequatesupplies such as paper to polling locations. Further, some delivered voting machines did notfunction correctly.
- Defendant overrode republican appointments, of election judges and provided no notice of these unlawful changes causing confusion and leaving some locations without coverage on electionday.
- Defendant removed the cameras recording vote counting before the process was complete in violation of Texas law.
The bipartisan lawsuit starts with this (bold added for emphasis):
This case is a bi-partisan petition aimed at addressing the constitutional and statutory violations of the Harris County Elections Administrator (“Administrator”). The Administrator’s unlawful acts include intentionally, willfully, and knowingly failing to adequately allocate equipment, paper ballots that are capable of preserving the voters’ intent, and failing to operate voting centers during the posted hours. These actions have violated and will continue to violate Petitioners statutory right to a safe, accurate, and efficient election, to produce records that allow an accurate audit. Additionally, the Administrator violated Petitioners Texas Constitutional guarantees of equal protection, purity of the ballot box, and the right of suffrage.
This suit seeks a permanent injunction to protect Petitioners’ rights and to restore the sanctity of the votes in every political party in Harris County, Texas.
And this section of the bipartisan lawsuit is wild:
28. On or near March 2, 2022, Isabel Longoria hosted a press conference to update the general public on the progress of the election count.3 During this interview the following occurred:
Unknown Reporter= UR
Isabel Longoria= IL
Mario Diaz= MD
Beginning of Excerpt:
“UR: Any idea of how many damage ballots there are
IL: Damage ballots is your words not mine.
UR: But still, that is a word damage ballots…
IL: if you’re asking me damage ballots there’s no damage ballots…
IL: If you are asking me how many ballots are coming in tonight, we’ve got about a hundred and something thousand voters who voted today so we’ll know at the end of election night how many ballots we have.
MD: Are there any issues with Ballots?
IL: Sure. Got paper jams… you got smudges on your ballots… very typical stuff…”
29. Moments later the Administrator went to say the following:
“I’ll be honest election night gets stressful. You’ve got Democrats and Republicans fighting with each other. Again, they are stealing each other’s ballot boxes. They’re playing pranks on each other.”
30. When confronted by reporters about stealing ballot boxes Isabela Longoria shifts and says that the parties were hiding each other’s highlighters and papers.
I asked HCRP Precinct Chair and Cameron County GOP Legal Counsel Mark McCaig for comment on these lawsuits.
These lawsuits are an important step in holding Isabel Longoria and her office accountable for the shambles of an election she conducted. The multitude and severity of problems described in these lawsuits sounds like something you would expect to see in a developing nation, not Harris County. The bi-partisan condemnation of Longoria’s handling of this election demonstrates the magnitude of incompetence, if not malfeasance, that occurred. I applaud Chairwoman Siegel and her team for taking swift and aggressive legal action to try to remedy these issues and prevent them from occurring again in the future. – Mark McCaig
You should read the lawsuits in full.
Harris County Republican Party Press Conference
The HCRP held a press conference today at 2:00 pm to discuss their lawsuit.
HCRP Cindy Siegel is demanding that the courts appoint an independent overseer for the next three elections in Harris County, May 1st, May 26th, and the November General Election. Attorney Steve Mitby focused on the late night news dump that 10,000 ballots were not included in the official count, charged that Isabel Longoria misrepresented her office’s ability to the original court on March 2nd, and that Republicans do not believe that the Democrats that run the county are going to be transparent and open the books to all parties in an effort to find out what happened. He also stated that County Judge Lina Hidalgo would have to answer questions under oath about hiring Ms. Longoria.
I don’t remember ever seeing Sen. Paul Bettencourt as livid as he was during the press conference. He was really ticked about the 10:30 pm Saturday night news release that 10,000 ballots had been “found” and said that neither party had been notified of this before the press release. He stated that no one can argue that Isabel Longoria is competent to run an election and that the commissioners court needs to hire someone competent. Someone that doesn’t come out late on a Saturday evening and say, “oops!”. He also said that the only reason they found out about the missing ballots was because of a provision in the new voting integrity bill, SB1, that requires ballots issued to votes tabulated to match. You know the one, the ‘racist’ GOP voter suppression law.
Probably the best line came from HCRP’s Ballot Security Chair Alan Vera. Mr. Vera asked “At what point does election incompetence become the perfect camoflage for election malfeasance?”
I’m already at the point that Mr. Vera mentioned. I can’t ever remember feeling like this about an election. Not even after the November 2020 fiasco in a few of the states around the country. Perhaps that is because I saw it first hand. It took me 1 1/2 hours to vote on Tuesday, standing in line with a hundred others in the cold. There were very few Democrats voting at the La Porte poll location and yet they had the same amount of equipment as the Republicans. There weren’t enough workers inside. My ballot jammed and wouldn’t print. Once I got someone to come over and fix it the ballot I had jammed in the ballot counter. Who knows if my votes were tabulated. And this happened all over the city. Everyone should read the boots on the ground account of the election written by Felicia Cravens.
I happen to be one of the few Republicans that respect County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner Adrian Garcia. I truly don’t believe that they are intentionally trying to steal elections. As the evidence mounts it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold this position. I feel so strongly about this that I personally asked them to fire Isabel Longoria, a very unusual step for me. I cannot shake this feeling that the partisan leadership of the county is betraying the voters. And that makes me very sad indeed.
Fire Isabel Longoria and her entire executive staff now.