By Jess Huff
The Texas Tribune
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A preliminary report from the Texas Secretary of State’s office found that Harris County’s 2022 election administration experienced “multiple failures” that could have prevented some voters from voting, but the report does not go as far as suggest that the outcome of a race has been affected.
The first version of the audit, which was released Thursday afternoon, days before early voting for constitutional amendments began statewide, reiterated that the county had failed to provide its voting centers enough paper ballots. It also found that its voter registration system had 9,000 more voters than were registered with the state and that 3,600 absentee ballots were sent to voters who had not been reported to the State.
The county – the third most populous in the country – also failed to properly train election workers, according to the audit.
“Harris County clearly experienced multiple failures in the conduct of elections and violated election law in deeming ballots necessary. Mistakes like these led to a poorly executed election that frustrated many Harris County residents and may have prevented them from voting,” Secretary of State Jane Nelson said in a statement. “It’s important to talk about these questions now so they can be answered before the 2024 election cycle.”
Harris County officials declined to immediately comment.
Former elections administrator Clifford Tatum previously acknowledged that there had not been enough ballots at some polling places and that the technical team on the ground had failed.
The county’s mishandling of the 2022 election — which has been the subject of several lawsuits, many of which have already been dropped or dismissed — sparked a series of legislative debates earlier this year.
Among them, Republican lawmakers forced the county to disband its recently created Office of Election Administration, splitting election duties between the county clerk and tax assessor. The fall elections will be the first since the law came into force.
Harris County is suing the state to overturn the law. Oral arguments before the state Supreme Court are expected later this year.
Nelson, in her statement, said she was grateful for the cooperation of Harris County officials and that a repeat of these issues “is unacceptable.”
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This article was originally published in The Texas Tribune.
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