This week, Harris County is releasing to the public a final report on the botched March 2022 primary election – a year after the report’s completion. That’s almost a year after a second botched election last November that has mired the County in lawsuits over election results.
The report recommended a number of changes in election processes. Had the then newly appointed Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum implemented the recommendations before the November election, many of the problems experienced by voters might have been prevented. But no one has explained why Tatum didn’t.
Most of the problems detailed in March also happened in November.
Fifty pages of election-worker survey data buried at the end of the March election report quantifies the magnitude of the problems that voters experienced.
As you read the numbers below, keep in mind that County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s official margin of victory was 1.65%.
Key Takeaways from Data
The following results jumped out at me.
Question 18 on page 100
Quantified the percentages of poll workers who experienced the following types of equipment problems:
- Almost one third (31.4%) of workers had problems with the Duos (machines that create both electronic and paper versions of voters’ choices).
- One fifth (19.3%) of workers had problems with the Scanners.
- One tenth (9.8%) of workers had problems with the ePollBooks.
Question 17 on page 99
Delved into who (among election workers) had the problems and when:
- One third (36.5%) of workers had problems with equipment during setup and operation.
- The degree of problems did not vary significantly by the amount of election experience that the worker had, suggesting the problems were not caused by inexperience.
- The problems virtually doubled on Primary Election Day compared to early voting (24.2% for early voting compared to 46.3% for Election Day).
- 45.8% of Republican election workers experienced problems compared to 29% of Democrats.
Question 10A on page 66
Measured the rough estimates of election workers as to voters who experienced problems:
- 6.5% of election workers felt most voters had problems recording votes on new machines.
- Another 13.5% felt “less than half” of the voters had problems recording their votes.
- So, 20% of election workers saw more than “a few voters” experiencing problems.
Question 9 on page 65
Measured how long it took election workers to get help via phone:
- Twice as many Republicans (21.4%) had to wait longer than a half hour on the help line compared to Democrats (11%).
This contributed to long lines during the November election.
Question 7 on page 63
Measured how long it took election workers to pick up supplies:
- 22.7% of Republicans said they had to wait longer than an hour for their supplies compared to 13.7% of Democrats.
This contributed to many polls opening late in November.
Question 24 on Page 105
Looked at Political Affiliation of poll workers:
- Democratic workers outnumbered Republicans by 12.1% (51.5% to 39.4%).
Vague Recommendations Don’t Get to Heart of Issue
The recommendations by the consultant performing the analysis focused mainly on processes and process improvements. Their recommendations on page 108 include:
- Refine and prioritize desired objectives and outcomes;
- Identify performance measures to meet outcomes;
- Inventory the data assets available to measure outcomes;
- Identify gaps in available data assets;
- Establish clear lines of responsibility among EAO staff for each outcome or category of outcomes; and
- Design processes to monitor the progress toward meeting outcomes.
The consultant’s report did, however, give us a clue about their company values.
A “B certified” watermark showed up on virtually every page of the ForsMarsh report. I didn’t know what that meant, so I looked it up.
BCorporation.net, a company that B-certifies other companies says, “Certified B Corporations are leaders in the global movement for an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy. Unlike other certifications for businesses, B Lab is unique in our ability to measure a company’s entire social and environmental impact.”
In choosing a vendor to audit the election, it would seem that Harris County selected a vendor that was more concerned with social impact than fairness. Their report demonstrates that.
Little Fanfare for Long-Awaited Report
The ForsMarsh Group delivered its report to Harris County on August 31, 2022. It’s now available to the public as the backup to Agenda Item 313 for the August 8, 2023, Commissioners Court meeting. That’s little fanfare for a long-awaited report.
By the way, #313 is a simple transmittal of the report to commissioners. No context or explanation is provided.
Too bad we didn’t have the report in a timely way before the November election last year. So much for transparency!
And little wonder that County Election Administrator Clifford Tatum is playing dodgeball with depositions. At the end of June this year, Tatum failed to appear for a scheduled deposition. And now, attorneys representing Judge Lina Hidalgo filed a motion to quash any further depositions of Tatum.
One Final Qualification and a Question
Harris County has also stonewalled production of records related to the November election. Data in the just-released report finally quantifies issues in the March primary election. However, it does not measure November election problems directly, i.e., those over which Tatum presided.
Regardless, the Primary data parallels independently compiled evidence of similar problems found on Election Day in November. That raises one final question: Nine months after the November election, why haven’t we seen an official report on it yet?
Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/7/23
2169 Days since Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.