Tag Archive for: Clifford Tatum

Nearly All Voting Problems in Republican Strongholds

A new 10-minute video by investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino shows heat maps of Republican-leaning areas in Harris County and where voting problems occurred in the November 2022 elections. Superimposing one on top of the other shows that virtually all of the areas running out of ballot paper occurred in Republican strongholds.

Experts estimate the chances of that happening by accident at less than 1%.


County Officials Still Stonewalling Document Requests

Dolcefino filed a lawsuit earlier this year because of Harris County’s refusal to provide public records relating to the election. Gallery-Furniture-owner Jim McIngvale is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

A computer expert named Russ Long from the oil and gas industry painstakingly pieced together the maps using data from other sources. Long began by sorting out the addresses of people who voted in Republican, but not Democratic primaries in 1150 voting precincts in Harris County. From that he identified the Republican-leaning precincts.

Red areas show clusters of Republican voters.

Paper Galore, But Not Evenly Distributed

Long is also a precinct captain in Cypress, TX. When he picked up ballot paper, he could immediately see that it wasn’t enough. Long told them he needed double the amount, but was told no more was available – despite the county having ordered 4 million sheets, far more than the number of registered voters in the county.

HarrisVotes.com shows that approximately 830,000 people voted early in person or by mail. About another 1.1 million voted on Election Day. Only the race for governor had more than 1.1 million ballots cast on Election Day and that total was 1,102,418. So there should have been two million extra sheets of paper.

Yet 121 polling places ran out of paper. And look where virtually all of them were!

Voter suppression in action.

Despite the problems, County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who chairs the Elections Commission, has not called a meeting of the commission since November, according to Dolcefino. Nor has the county released election records requested by Dolcefino under the Texas Public Information Act.

“The release of this information related to our election is way past due,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey.

“What’s wrong with sunshine? Shine the light on it,” said McIngvale.

Early Voting Starts Next Month for Next Election

It will take months to resolve these issues in the courts or the legislature. Dolcefino emphasizes the need for full disclosure now. We have another election in May. Early voting starts on April 24th, in a little more than a month. And we’ve had five months of stonewalling since the last election.

“None of the Democratic-leaning precincts came close to running out of ballots,” said Dolcefino.

Long added, “There would have been riots in the streets if they had.”

The problems may be worse than Dolcefino is reporting. For instance, the map above shows only one polling place in Kingwood that ran out of ballot paper. But I personally know of at least two.

And Dolcefino has not yet even reported on the problems with handicapped voting. Reliable sources tell me of technology problems countywide associated with curbside voting for handicapped people. Again, I personally witnessed those at multiple locations.

Elections Administrator Hired Despite Reported Problems on Last Job

According to Dolcefino’s video, Clifford Tatum, the Elections Administrator, reportedly ran into problems with a similar job he held in Washington D.C.

Previously, the people who ran Harris County elections were elected themselves. Hidalgo changed that, however. She created an office of Elections Administration with an appointed head. Tatum is Hidalgo’s second head of that office. The first resigned after problems with an earlier election.

Many races on last November’s ballot were decided by just a few hundred votes. Without actual records, it’s impossible to tell whether ballot issues skewed election results.

We need to get to the bottom of these problems sooner rather than later. If Hidalgo has nothing to hide, why hide it?

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/10/2023

2019 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.

Harris County Stonewalling Production of Documents Related to Election Irregularities

Gallery-furniture owner James McIngvale and investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino are suing the Harris County Elections Administrator’s Office for refusal to produce documents related to the controversial 2022 Harris County Election on November 8. “If there’s nothing to hide,” said Dolcefino, “the best way to clear this up is to produce the documents.”

The lawsuit in Harris County District Court seeks the documents requested under the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA) and recovery of legal fees. It raises huge issues about the transparency of Harris County government in performing one of its most sacred jobs – conducting elections.

Plaintiffs Dolcefino and McIngvale at press conference with lawyer Jeff Diamant announcing lawsuit on 2/14/23.

Internal Investigation Called “Inconclusive” by Election Administrator

In a post-election assessment of the 2022 elections issued by Clifford Tatum, the County Elections Administrator, he called his own internal investigation “inconclusive” His office’s report acknowledged issues such as malfunctioning voting machines, short staffing, and lack of supplies on election day. The report also blamed the United States Postal Service for not moving mail-in ballots quickly enough. And in a first, the report blamed the Astros World Series parade for causing school district closures. The closures allegedly caused delays by presiding judges in opening voting centers located in schools.

Documents Sought

To get to the bottom of these and other issues, Dolcefino requested production of documents in the following categories:

  1. Phone records including text and phone messages for Clifford Tatum between August 1, 2022 and the present. Tatum’s emails and their attachments on Election Day. And all emails between Precinct 1 and Tatum since August 1, 2022.
  2. All documents dealing with voting machine maintenance issues on Election Day, plus all documents pertaining to inspection of their logic and accuracy before Election Day.
  3. The amount of ballot paper provided to each precinct on Election Day and the number of voters who voted at each precinct. This includes emails between the Administrator’s office and precinct judges regarding paper shortages.
  4. All election complaints, whether by email or phone, received by the Election Administrators Office and County Judge Lina Hidalgo between November 8 and the present.
  5. A list of all polling locations for 2020 and 2022 elections, plus all emails to/from Tatum re: an audit by the Secretary of State.
  6. Emails to/from Tatum between May 1, 2022, and Election Day re: maintenance of polling machines, ballot paper supplies, and changes in polling locations.

Documents Produced

According to the lawsuit, to date, the Elections Administration Office has only produced documents relating to:

  1. One portion of #3 – number of voters, but not the amount of ballot paper supplied for them.
  2. One portion of #5 – the list of polling locations, but no audit emails.

Reasons Cited for Not Releasing Documents

The Elections Administration Office repeatedly cites pending litigation as the reason for refusing to produce the requested documents. The lawsuit lays out why Dolcefino and McIngvale believe the “litigation exception” should not apply. He cites extensively from the Texas Government Code Section 552.103(A). It was intended to prevent the litigation exception from circumventing the intent of the TPIA, i.e., to make public information available to the public. 

The Elections Administration Office also claims an “audit working-papers exception” to TPIA. It allows withholding information under audit.

However, Dolcefino points out that release of the documents is discretionary. There’s no law or rule saying the county must withhold them.

Plaintiffs Claim Defendant Has Not Met Burden of Proof

However, McIngvale and Dolcefino claim that the Elections Administration Office has failed to meet its burden of proof re: the exceptions. The lawsuit says that the Election Administrator Office has blocked virtually all releases of information without valid explanations or precedents. The bulk of the 20-page lawsuit examines, on a case-by-case basis, why McIngvale and Dolcefino believe legal precedents cited by the Elections Administration office should not apply. 

They request a jury hearing on the merits of their arguments.

Says the suit, “Simply because litigation pertaining to an election has been filed or is anticipated does not permit the Harris County Elections Administrator to withhold his communications simply by benefit of his office.”

County Shortcomings Identified by State Audit

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit cites repeated and widespread failures in Harris County. For instance, in December 2022, a Texas-Secretary-of-State audit of Harris County found:

  • Mobile ballot boxes containing 184,999 cast-vote records that were included in the tally did not have a proper chain of custody.
  • Documentation for the creation of 17 mobile ballot boxes accounting for 124,630 cast-vote records could not be produced.
  • Unlike other counties, Harris County did not release a list showing polling locations comparing variance between the number of voters checked in and the number of votes cast.
  • The State’s Forensic Audit Division was not allowed to speak to pertinent Elections Administration staff until the month before the election.

Dolcefino said, “The quickest way to make all this go away is to release the documents.” 

Needed to Hold Government Officials Accountable

In my opinion, this is information that citizens need to hold their government officials accountable. As the Washington Post says, “Democracy dies in darkness.”

The preamble to the Texas Government Code holds that “The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”

In my limited experience, I have found that departments that have nothing to hide willingly produce information. On the other hand, those that withhold information trigger suspicion, undermine trust, and cause more journalists to dig deeper. The resulting public outrage, often backfires on the stonewallers in the long run. 

Unfortunately, the courts move so slowly these days, this dispute may not be settled before the next election. So the information the secret documents contain may not help us conduct a better election next time. Now let’s see. Who’s responsible for courts?

To see the full lawsuit, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/14/2023

1995 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.