Texas releases another audit of elections in Harris County, where GOP still challenging losses

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A second Texas audit in as many years of elections in Harris County, the third-most populous county in the U.S., called for improvements but does not suggest that race outcomes in 2022 were impacted by issues that Republicans have used to contest losses and take more control over voting in the Democratic stronghold.

The preliminary report by Texas Secretary of State Jane Nelson, a Republican, was released days before Houston residents begin early voting for a new mayor. It also follows Republicans increasingly targeting elections in the county of nearly 5 million people, a size that makes Harris politically significant as Democrats try to end decades of GOP dominance in the state.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law this year that removed Harris County’s elections administrator and transferred the responsibility to other local officials. One is County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth, who in response to the audit said her office is working to make sure “past issues are not repeated” but defended previous elections as successful.

“But the public should know that ‘successful’ isn’t the same thing as ‘flawless,’” Hudspeth said.

Democrats who lead Harris County have acknowledged issues, including limited paper ballot shortages and machine malfunctions, on Election Day last year. But they said the difficulties were not intentional and have accused critics of stoking conspiracies.

Nelson, who was appointed by Abbott, said the county “clearly had multiple failures” last year. Republicans cheered the findings as justification for the new laws that transferred election oversight.

“It is important to talk about these issues now in order to address them before the 2024 election cycle,” Nelson said.

Republican candidates have challenged losses in races across the county last year but there has been no evidence that the issues affected the outcomes. The first lawsuit went to trial earlier this year but a judge has yet to rule on the case.

Another new law signed by Abbott earlier this year clears the way for Nelson’s office to potentially take oversight of Harris County elections. Following the 2020 election, Texas also audited elections in Harris and three other counties, which came after former President Donald Trump falsely claimed the election was stolen and pressured Abbott to review ballots.

 

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