HOUSTON - The Harris County Republican Party is asking a judge to appoint an independent elections administrator to oversee the next two elections in May.
Party Chair Cindy Siegel, Texas State Sen. Paul Bettencourt and other party leaders discussed the latest updates on their litigation against Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria, who submitted her resignation, effective July 1, during Commissioners Court on Tuesday.
"We’re stuck with her for two more elections," Siegel said.
The county GOP leaders announced on Wednesday morning that an emergency hearing was scheduled following their press conference, where they would ask for Longoria to be removed from office immediately and have an independent administrator to oversee the May 7 and May 24 elections.
Calls for Longoria's resignation came after a mishandling of the Texas Primary Election last week.
Paper ballots got stuck in the new voting machines, the vote count was delayed and more than 10,000 mail-in ballots that were not added into the original Election Night count.
"We have an election administrator that's already proven to be inexperienced, incompetent and disingenuous, and yet that person's gonna be in charge of two major elections for both political parties in the state of Texas," said Texas Sen. Paul Bettencourt. "That can't be tolerated."
Attorney Steve Mitby, who is legal counsel for the Harris County GOP, said they were going to the emergency hearing to ask the court to do two things.
- To put an independent administrator over the next election process;
- And to make Harris County turn the cameras back on that are supposed to be recording the vote count.
The GOP say the cameras were turned off when the 10,000 lost ballots were found.
"Under Texas law, Harris County is required to have a live stream and camera footage of all vote counting that's going on," said Mitby. "We intend to get those cameras back on because the only reason why they would have been shut off is because somebody with Lina Hidalgo's office has something to hide, and we're going to find out what they're hiding."
Hidalgo, who is part of the Harris County Elections Commission that appointed Longoria in the newly-created elections administrator position, was called out by Siegel for blaming Senate Bill 1 for the vote count issues.
"We heard Lina Hidalgo, Rodney Ellis, Adrian Garcia talk yesterday about, ‘It was Senate Bill 1’s fault. It’s the voters' fault. It’s the election workers' fault,'" Siegel said. "I really expected at some point that we were going to hear Lina say, ‘Hey, my dog ate the homework.’ You know, 'It's my dog's fault.'"
"Well ladies and gentlemen, Senate Bill 1 didn't require her to send out broken voting machines. It didn't require her to print ballots on the wrong size paper. It didn't require her to send out the wrong ballots to polling stations, and it didn't require her to deliver election equipment to the wrong places," added Mitby. "Those are failures that have to be placed squarely at the feet of Harris County government, not Senate Bill 1. But the cover up continues, and it will continue until we get proper relief from a court."
Harris County Democratic Party Chair Odus Evbagharu issued the following statement in response:
"A committee already exists to provide elections oversight. The Harris County Elections Committee — made up of both party chairs, the county judge, the county clerk, and the county tax assessor — is designed to provide direction and supervision over elections held in Harris County.
"In addition to the elections committee, a third-party consultant is being brought in to review the county’s elections operations. The County Commissioners Court literally just voted to hire an independent consultant to make recommendations for improvements for the remaining 2022 elections.
"The county GOP is making a redundant request at a press event in order to play into the ‘big lie’ told by Trump and other Republican leaders — it’s political theater and is being used as a tool to manipulate the public. Implying that our County Judge is ‘covering-up’ is ludicrous, especially when the moment this surfaced she immediately stepped in to address the situation. The GOP is shamelessly promoting hype designed to create unwarranted fear about the election process.
"Commissioners Court put a plan in place to address the issues that occurred in the primary. We should all focus our energy on that."