Abbott calls for investigation into Harris County's 2022 midterm elections

Nearly a week after Election Day for the 2022 midterm elections, tensions remain high over widespread issues facing Harris County voters. 

RELATED: Harris County GOP leaders claim voting issues for November 8 election could be intentional

For this reason, Governor Greg Abbott issued a statement Monday calling for an investigation into the issues voters faced including delays, insufficient paper ballots in Republican precincts, and staffing problems. 

"I'm calling on the Secretary of State, the Attorney General's Office, and the Texas Rangers to initiate investigations into allegations of improprieties in the way that the 2022 elections were conducted in Harris County," Abbott said. "The allegations of election improprieties in our state's largest county may result from anything ranging from malfeasance to blatant criminal conduct." 

MORE: Harris County continuing to examine Election Day issues during 2022 midterms

"Voters in Harris County deserve to know what happened," he added. "Integrity in the election process is essential. To achieve that standard, a thorough investigation is warranted."

Communications Director for Harris Co. Elections Administration, Leah Shah responded to the governor's calls in a statement saying: 

"The Harris County Elections Administrator’s Office is fully committed to transparency regarding the processes and procedures implemented for the November 8, 2022, Midterm Elections. As already established, Harris County has been selected to participate in the 2022 SOS Audit and has been in communication with the SOS Auditing team regarding this election. The office is currently completing vote tabulation of provisional ballots in reparation for the statutorily required manual count that must occur before canvassing. The last day to Canvas is November 22, 2022. The office is currently reviewing issues and claims made about Election Day and will include these findings in a post-elections report to be shared promptly with the Harris County Elections Commission and the County Commissioner Court."

RELATED: How 2022 midterm election results will affect Harris Co. Commissioner’s Court 

Harris County Democrats meanwhile, fired back at the Governor's calls for investigation, calling it "political theater." 

"Yet another example of the political theater we’ve come to expect from our state leader," Harris County Democratic Party Chair Odus Evbagharu said in a written statement. "We all know Abbott’s concern is not really the 2022 Midterm Election in Harris County. He’s got his focus on what’s next for him, and he’s hoping simply calling for an investigation will play out in his favor politically. 

"It’s almost laughable that Abbott has demanded this investigation since he actually sent a team to oversee the Harris County elections last week,"  Evbagharu continued. "Was Abbott’s team ineffective? Will Abbott be investigating himself? Our biggest concern about this is that Abbott and other GOP state leaders are trying to criminalize election workers. These elections are run by volunteers who are civically engaged and actively participating in the political process, and under Abbott’s watch, election workers have been constantly under attack. Already, GOP State Rep. Andy Murr has pre-filed a bill trying to bump penalties for SB1 back up to a felony from the negotiated misdemeanor. All of these actions by the GOP could make election workers hesitate about volunteering in the future. It should be noted that in July, the Texas secretary of state’s office announced Harris County had been ‘randomly selected’ for an audit of the November election results. This latest call by Gov. Abbott seems redundant. Also, Gov. Abbott is acting like Harris County doesn’t examine elections after they occur, and that is simply not the case. The Elections Administrator always conducts a postmortem after an election and from that report, processes are updated and streamlined and corrections in process are made. Let’s see what the EA’s report details and learn how issues flagged will be addressed in the future."

This comes a few days after FOX 26 heard from irate GOP leaders over how the Nov. 8 election was handled by the current county administration. They reportedly received numerous reports of polling locations not set up, broken machines as well as scanners, and the biggest complaint - the lack of ballot paper. 

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Leaders called it a repeat of the March and May elections and called it a form of voter suppression.

"I’m tired of this crap going on in our county," Harris County GOP Chair Cindy Siegel said last Thursday. "Voter suppression is when you can’t go into a poll, or it’s not open, when you don’t have equipment that works, and when you don’t have the paper to record your ballot."

FOX 26 heard from Harris Co. Elections administrators that very Thursday, who said they remain focused on looking into those concerning issues. 

"We are currently focused on completing the canvassing process," Shah said Thursday. "Once complete we will turn our attention to a post-election assessment and report."