The November 2022 election in Harris County and its aftermath

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Well, well, well,

Here we are. As I write this, it has been one week since the November 2022 federal and state elections were held across America. By now, there isn’t much that I would otherwise write about the election that intrepid readers probably haven’t read elsewhere. Broadly, my party, the Republican Party, did not perform up to expectations, while the opposition Democrats did better than what was expected. As I write this, the Democrats will retain their narrow control of the U.S. Senate, while the Republican Party will likely narrowly capture control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In Texas, the Republican Party will retain control of all statewide offices, as Texas voters voted roughly 55-45 percent in favor of Republicans. The Texas House and Texas Senate will remain more or less the same as they were after the 2020 election, with Republicans likely gaining one state senate seat and a couple of Texas house seats. In all, it’s fair to say that (nationwide) the ongoing era where Republicans and Democrats are of roughly equal strength, which started back in 1994, will continue, whereas Republicans will continue their statewide control of Texas.

But then there’s Harris County

Which brings us to what occurred here in Harris County. The 2022 election in Harris County was a hotly contested one, with plenty of campaign money being spent to contest the election. Roughly 2,570,000 of Harris County’s 4.8 million residents were registered to vote. About 1.1 million of those voters did vote in the election, resulting in a countywide turnout of roughly 45%. Of those 1.1 million voters, about 750,000 voted early while the remaining 350,000 who participated waited until Election Day to cast their ballots.

Or at least tried to cast their ballots on Election Day. And there’s the rub. I started getting notices of irregularities and reports of other other complaints by mid-morning. Amongst them, I saw posts of voting sites that were allegedly not open, complaints of voting machines at certain locations that were not working, of polling locations running short on printing toner and of not having enough ballot paper to handle balloting procedures. The issues, though they were not countywide, occurred widely enough for the Harris County Republican Party to file a suit against the Harris County Elections Administrator and against Harris County itself. Amongst the claims made were that nearly all of the irregularities which occurred on November 8th occurred in precincts and areas of town which strongly lean Republican. The lawsuit itself, which clocks in at 20 pages in length, can be read here.

On the joys of living in a Republic and holding elections

One of the dirty little secrets that most people who go off the rails about politics and elections never seem to grasp is that most of the time, elections actually work. If the outcome of this election were that 700,000 Harris County residents had voted for Democrats while 400,000 voted for Republicans (or vice versa), then some people out there would be grousing, but nobody would be out there raising enough of a complaint so as to file a lawsuit in court. It’s when elections are close that people get upset. And this election was certainly pretty close. Nobody is particularly concerned over the results of the top of the ticket. The results are pretty clear that the Democrats won the overall countywide vote when it came to the statewide races. Democrat candidate for Governor Robert O’Rourke outpolled Texas Governor Greg Abbott 592,494 – 488,318, which made the governor’s race in Harris County a 10% win for the Democrats. The same story more or less holds for the Lieutenant Governor’s race, Attorney General, Railroad Commissioner and so on.

What is really at stake here are the local races in Harris County. Here a very different picture has emerged. The local races for Harris County Judge, Commissioners Court, and for the local judicial races were far closer than those on the top of the ticket, and that’s the rub. The current results are that incumbent Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo won the judgeship race over Republican challenger Alexandra Mealer 549,999 – 532,602, a margin of 1.6 percent. Most local races were decided within a margin of some 30,000 votes out of 1.1 million ballots cast. Five Republican judge candidates won their races. The two other County Commissioners races, those between Democrat incumbent Adrian Garcia and Republican challenger Jack Morman and between Republican incumbent Jack Cagle and Democrat challenger Lesley Briones, were decided by Garcia winning by only 11,000 votes and Briones winning by 8,000 votes. That would give Democrats a 4-1 majority on Harris County Commissioners Court.

In other words, the dispute that arises is that Harris County had a closely fought election, and that the irregularities and mishaps that occurred were possibly great enough to call into question the outcomes of at least some of the local elections so as to be in doubt. Attorney Andy Taylor, who is representing the plaintiffs in the case, argues that tens of thousands of voters had their votes affected in some way because of the varying problems which occurred on Election Day. That may or may not be hyperbole, but a claim has been advanced that 23 of the 782 polling locations had paper-ballot-related issues, and other problems were widely reported elsewhere. Given that 350,000 or so people cast votes on Election Day which were recorded, reports that problems arose in at least a moderate percentage of voting locations that day, and that the problems that did come up were in Republican-dominated areas, lend plausibility to the claim that the problems were great enough to have possibly swayed the outcomes of at least some of the races that were being contested. That should be enough to warrant an investigation into the election.

As Andy Taylor himself noted in his press conference that was held in announcing the HCRP lawsuit over the election, the suit itself will not overturn or otherwise nullify the election. Taylor noted that political parties themselves cannot, under Texas law, ask for recounts. Only candidates who were on the ballot can do so. Ergo, one or more candidates who were on the ballot are going to have to step up to ask for a recount. As of this writing, no candidate of either party has done so, and time is ticking.

Voter suppression! Voter suppression! Voter suppression! Voter suppression!

Oh, and one last thing I wanted to throw into this epistle. It has been a constant talking point of Democrats in recent years that the Republican Party has systematically engaging in voter suppression to win elections. I routinely get fundraising solicitations from the ACLU, angrily declaring that I need to give them money in order to fight evil Republicans engaging in voter suppression. Then we’re not even going to note that a certain, longtime serial-plagiarizing local blogger has posted about the topic of voter suppression no fewer than 34 times on his blog since April 2021 alone! As much as I don’t like to bring this topic up, the Harris County Republican Party was not the party that was in control of administering this election. And maybe that should be enough to cause the Democrats to consider hitting the pause button on Republicans being the sole party that engages in voter suppression – or at least to do so for the next few days or so.

And that’s a wrap. If I don’t write another post before Thanksgiving, then Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

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