Harris County reports obtained by investigative journalist Wayne Dolcefino and shared with ReduceFlooding.com raise serious concerns about the integrity of the 2022 election. A video released by Dolcefino on 6/1/23 summarized some of the problems:
- More than 100 polling locations turned people away.
- 119 polling locations did not open on time.
- 64 polling locations closed early.
- 62 polling locations ran out of ballot paper.
“The release of these documents details a horrific story of incompetence,” said Dolcefino.
And that was in an election where…
Dolcefino and Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale filed a lawsuit months ago to force transparency in election day communications after Judge Hidalgo and County Attorney Christian Menefee denied them the right to see public records relating to the election.
However, two spreadsheets that Dolcefino did obtain from Harris County detail issues reported by election judges and alternate judges at all 783 polling places.
The survey of judges and alternates produces a chilling picture of Election Day chaos.
The surveys were evidently conducted by the Harris County Election Administrator’s office. Why the County released these particular documents, but denied others, is a mystery.
Additional Analysis Reveals More Concerns
Regardless, additional analysis of the surveys revealed even more problems. They are widespread and affect both Democrats and Republicans.
I found that:
To arrive at that percentage, I combined responses from both surveys. Then I subtracted all precincts where the judges reported NO problems or problems not serious enough to cause people to leave in frustration. That left 631 responses out of a total of 1566.
- The most common problems included malfunctioning technology that could have contributed to long wait times.
- Even though many locations ran out of ballot paper, others reported having far too much.
- Some precincts shared ballot paper. Others were told they could not share.
- Two-thirds of the judges and alternate judges reporting ballot-paper shortages were Republicans (88 out of 130).
Survey Comments Reveal Causes of Chaos
Diving down into the explanatory comments provided a more detailed image of what many might describe as chaos. Judges and alternates reported:
- Turning away as many as 200 voters.
- Running out of paper for 8 hours. Then getting a delivery 10 minutes before the poll closed. Or even after the poll closed.
- Being “put on hold for hours” when requesting more paper.
- Having to shut down the polling place because of lack of paper.
- Some locations loaned extra paper to other locations; but others said they were not allowed to share surplus paper.
- Long lines.
- Machines breaking down and not being replaced despite multiple requests.
- Paper jams.
- Scanners shredding ballots.
- Not enough scanners and scanners not working at many locations.
- Being short-staffed.
- Unqualified, combative workers with behavioral issues who were hostile to voters.
- Not getting through on the help line.
- Poor training that left workers unprepared.
- One location had only six parking spots for voters.
- Ballots printing twice.
- No clerks, no keys to turn systems on, no one told them to set up the night before.
- No signs identifying the polling location as a polling location.
- Not receiving the notice of the court order to stay open an extra hour until after the location had already shut down.
The court order resulted from many locations opening late because of the other issues cited above.
Overall, both Democrat and Republican judges and alternate judges reported so many problems that they often couldn’t get through to the Election Administrator’s office to ask for help. Some were put on hold for hours.
Although Republican judges experienced more ballot-paper shortages, overall Democrats were as as likely to cite serious problems when considering all issues.
Uncertain Impact of Most Common Problems
The most common problems included malfunctioning technology, late opening, early closing, ballot paper shortages, and not getting help in a timely way.
They all added up to long lines and delays that can discourage people from voting. No one knows exactly how many voters:
- Were turned away when machines broke down for hours.
- Left in frustration after waiting in long lines that didn’t move.
- Showed up at polling places that opened late or closed early.
- Voted at an alternate location or just gave up and didn’t vote.
Complaints About the Workers
Another spreadsheet obtained from a separate source reviewed the performance of election personnel. It noted problems such as:
- Refusing to process voters during the court-ordered additional hour of voting
- Leaving the location without reporting numbers
- Sexual harassment, flirting
- Sleeping on the job
- Not offering voters provisional ballots
- Making racist comments
- Rude, disrespectful behavior
- Threatening to blow people up
Insight of Experienced Poll Judge
I asked one of the most experienced poll judges in Harris County to put these problems in perspective. Compared to previous elections, she rated the 2022 election much more problematic. Elections happen infrequently and, therefore, are staffed by large numbers of volunteers. But this year, she said, the county:
- Supplemented the volunteers with laborers hired from temp agencies.
- Introduced complicated new technology.
- Allowed online training, which is less effective.
- Eliminated many checks and balances.
- Hired a new election administrator, unfamiliar with the area, just months before the election.
It all added up to too much change in too little time – a problem common to other Harris County departments.
“You can’t make this complicated,” she emphasized. But the county did exactly that.
The poll judge above also raised other questions not addressed by the newly released documents. For instance…
Provisional balloting, which happened during the extra hour between 7 and 8PM, takes a lot of time and requires special training and supplies. She suspected many polling places were not equipped to handle it. She also said…
The Election Reconciliation Report on HarrisVotes.com shows that during normal hours, people voted at the rate of more than 91,000 per hour. But during that extra hour, only 6,302 provisional ballots were submitted, and only 4,333 were counted. The voting rate fell off by more than 20X.
Did people just not hear about the extra hour? Had they already voted? Or were they deterred by the process? And why were thousands disqualified? We’ll never know.
Other questions: Did the ballot paper shortages relate to the length of the ballot? Were some precincts intentionally shortchanged? Or did untrained people picking up/distributing the paper just not know how much they needed? Again, we’ll never know.
Finally, what about mail-in ballots? We have no information about those except for the county’s reconciliation report. I know some people who requested mail-in ballots but never received them. Were they lost in the post office or never mailed?
The reported numbers don’t even add up. Approximately:
- 81,000 were sent out
- 26,000 were not returned by the voter or surrendered (returned when people decide to vote in person instead)
- That should leave about 55,000 people who voted by mail.
- But the county reported 64,259 who voted by mail.
And of those:
- 2,672 were rejected for unknown reasons
- Only 61,264 went into the official count.
That’s a lot of unexplained rejections.
But explanations will not be forthcoming any time soon. Judge Hidalgo and Christian Menefee are fighting to keep election information secret.
Legislative Changes to Elections Office? NOT!
New Harris County Interim Administrator Diana Ramirez is reportedly considering restructuring the entire county government to expand equity. That includes implementing new elections mandates for Harris County. For instance, SB1750 would abolish the office of Elections Administrator in Harris County. The bill would transfer election functions back to the County Clerk and Tax Assessor Collector. SB 1750 has passed both houses and awaits the Governor’s signature.
Ramirez’ office is already planning the transition. One scenario under consideration is simply having Cliff Tatum, the current election administrator, report to the Clerk. It would appear that Harris County is stuck with Tatum and his team for now.
Is County Judge Lina Hidalgo considering keeping Tatum to keep a lid on more damning revelations about the 2022 election? That’s another question we will likely never know the answer to as Hidalgo fights – with taxpayer dollars – to keep her emails regarding election problems a secret.
1% vs. 40%
The record shows that Lina Hidalgo beat Alexandra Mealor in 2022 by 50.82% to 49.15%. The difference was a margin of 18,183 votes or a little more than 1% when 40% of the polling places experienced problems.
Just 23 ballots per precinct – 2 per hour – could have resulted in a different outcome.
Considering the sentiments of voters I interviewed at Foster Elementary in Kingwood (see picture above), it’s not hard to imagine three voters per hour dropping out of the line while waiting in the hot sun. Those frustrations could have easily made a difference in the outcome.
And that doesn’t even include the drop-off in voting during the provisional hour or the huge amount of mail-in ballots that were not returned or disqualified – more than 22,000!
But it looks like we’ll have Hidalgo for another four years. Her management skills have left their mark on one Harris County department after another. For instance, Flood Control has had four leaders in two years. And that’s why you’re reading about an election in a flood blog.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/3/2023
2104 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.