Tag Archive for: Wayne Dolcefino

Newly Obtained Harris County Reports Raise Serious 2022 Election Concerns

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…

Just two votes per hour per precinct could have changed the outcome.

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:

40% encountered one or more problems serious enough to discourage voting.

Surveys of precinct judges and alternates

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).
Foster Elementary
Foster Elementary on 11/8/22. I interviewed several angry voters here. They complained about printing/scanning problems. During the time I was there, the line barely moved and no officials told voters they could vote at other nearby precincts.

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.

Unanswered Questions

The poll judge above also raised other questions not addressed by the newly released documents. For instance…

Provisional Voting

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…

Provisional voting drives voters away because they are told their vote might not count.

Poll Judge

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.

Paper Shortages

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.

But thousands of people waited in long lines while millions of sheets of ballot paper sat in a warehouse.

Mail In

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.

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.

Controversial Colony Ridge Development Doubles in Size

The Colony Ridge development in Liberty County, aka the world’s largest trailer park, has more than doubled in size in the last 3 years. Measurements in Google Earth show that Colony Ridge, which started clearing land in 2012, has expanded from approximately 8,000 acres in 2019 to almost 20,000 acres today. To put that in perspective, Kingwood comprises approximately 14,000 acres and took more than 40 years to build out.

Colony Ridge started developing on the left (west). It is expanding east and north.

Growing Pains

But the rapid growth of Colony Ridge has not come without pain:

Consequences of Poor Construction Practices

As a result of such drainage issues and exposed soils, more sediment flows downstream than otherwise would. This contributed to sediment buildups on the San Jacinto East Fork (see below). Those, in turn, reduce conveyance and contribute to downstream flooding – unless the public continues to spend millions on dredging.

East Fork Mouth Bar after Imelda but before recent dredging. Average river depth had been reduced to three feet.

Still Not Following Best Practices

Aerial photos taken on 7/22/2022 with Ken Williams and Bill Callegari, two fellow members of the Harris County Community Flood Resilience Task Force, show the current state of the development and construction practices in Colony Ridge. Sadly, not much has improved. For instance, the developer still piles dirt on the edge of ditches without protecting them with silt fences.

Note long drainage ditch cutting diagonally through middle of frame. Developer has piled dirt next to it (middle left of frame) without protecting ditch with silt fencing.
Major ditch cutting through older section is sill not protected with back-slope interceptor swales or vegetation. Erosion is rampant.

Water shooting down the ditch above created a major headache during Harvey. See below.

FM 1010 Still Washed Out

Floodwater from the ditch washed out FM 1010. This major N/S thoroughfare still needs repair…five years later!

Break in FM 1010, aka Plum Grove Road forces residents to detour for miles.

Photos Showing New Development

Area developed last year is starting to fill in with new trailer homes already. Note absence of fire hydrants…still.
Looking east at area still under construction.
Looking E from NE corner of development. Another area semi-cleared but still unpaved.

If there’s good news in these photos, it is that the developer appears to be leaving more natural ground cover in the newest areas. Still, without vegetation on the sides of ditches, without better construction practices, excess sediment could continue washing into the Lake Houston Area for years to come.

Ever Widening Circles

These images support the need to harmonize and enforce higher drainage standards throughout the region. Without change two things will happen:

  • Downstream residents will continue to pay the price for egregious development practices upstream.
  • Someday, the people who buy these lots will also become flood victims of similar new developments even farther upstream.

Will we continue to repeat mistakes of the past in ever widening circles? Will we continue to sow the seeds of future flooding? Or will we wake up to the fact that we are all part of one giant community?

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/23/2022

1792 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.

Flood Digest: Updates on TWDB Grants, Affordable Housing Investigations, Subsidence

Below are updates on three items recently in the news: Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) Grants, Affordable Housing Investigations, and Subsidence.

Texas Water Development Board Grants Affecting Houston Region

Last week, I posted a story about flood mitigation assistance grants being considered by the TWDB. The Houston region qualified for eight and the TWDB approved them all…unanimously. However, the checks aren’t in the mail yet.

TWDB approved the following subject to FEMA final approval:

  • 32 structures in Houston, Jersey Village, Pearland and Taylor Lake Village will receive financial assistance for elevating structures.
  • 1421 structures in Bear Creek Village (near Addicks Reservoir and Highway 6) will see their drainage improved by Harris County Flood Control District HCFCD).
  • 61 repetitive loss structures will be bought out by HCFCD.
  • 1 hotel with a severe repetitive loss history dating back to 1979 will also be bought out by HCFCD.
  • 40 repetitive-loss structures in Montgomery County will also be bought out.

FEMA requested more information for further review on each project. So when/if FEMA gives final approval to each of the above, they should be good to go. That usually happens by January.

Texas projects considered for further review by FEMA

Clear Lake Apartment Complex Recommended by Mayor

On September 21, the former director of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) turned whistleblower and accused the mayor of recommending a multi-family housing deal in Clear Lake that was not in taxpayers’ best interests. It turns out the Mayor’s former law partner would have benefited by $15 million from the deal, but the department’s recommendations would have provided four times more affordable housing for essentially the same amount of money.

That ignited a firestorm in the media and on City Council. HUD, GLO, the County Attorney, and the City Attorney (with the help of two US Attorneys) and City Council are all investigating.

In the face of this withering onslaught, the Houston Chronicle today reported that the Mayor has dropped his recommendation to back his former law partner’s project in Clear Lake. The Mayor said he didn’t want it to become a “distraction.”

However, getting the genie back in the bottle may not be that simple. Since the Clear Lake deal imploded on September 22, 2021, more allegations of financial mismanagement arose in City Council last week.

Also this afternoon, investigative journalist Wayne Dolcefino issued a press release about a Federal lawsuit he filed. It alleges a cover-up at the Houston Housing Authority on other housing deals that appear to be linked to the same players Tom McCasland and the Mayor.

This has the stink of Watergate about it.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner at Kingwood’s last town hall meeting in October of 2018.

GMA-14 Makes Subsidence DFC Optional

For several years now, the state’s Groundwater Management Area 14 (GMA-14) in southeast Texas has struggled to define Desired Future Conditions (DFCs). These are long-term goals that address groundwater conservation and the maximum amount of subsidence allowable.

The Lonestar Groundwater Conservation District has denied subsidence exists in Montgomery County and stonewalled efforts to include a subsidence metric in DFCs.

Going into a board meeting last week, GMA 14 had proposed DFCs that read:

In each county in GMA 14, no less than 70 percent median available drawdown remaining in 2080 and no more than an average of 1.0 additional foot of subsidence between 2009 and 2080.

Initial DFCs

However, days before the final vote on this statement, State Senator Robert Nichols, intervened. He wrote a letter to each of GMA-14’s groundwater conservation district leaders “urging” them to make the subsidence metric optional. At that point, the debate ended. The final DFCs adopted by GMA-14 read:

In each county in Groundwater Management Area 14, no less than 70 percent median available drawdown remaining in 2080 or no more than an average of 1.0 additional foot of subsidence between 2009 and 2080. 

Final DFCs

This “opt-out option” defeats the purpose of even having a GMA and a subsidence metric.

This revised statement was quietly approved on October 5, 2021. At its January 5, 2022, meeting, GMA-14 will approve the report that accompanies the DFCs when they are submitted to the TDWB.

Of the five groundwater conservation districts in GMA-14, four voted for the new DFCs and one abstained. The new DFCs will likely be challenged in court by areas threatened by subsidence.

Makeup of Groundwater Management Area 14

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/11/2021

1504 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.