Texas Attorney General seeks to overturn Harris County ballots ` Texas

The Texas Attorney General’s Office is trying to step in at the last minute to discard 2,000 provisional ballots before a Harris County Commissioners Court session Tuesday to confirm November’s election.

The ballots in question were cast within an hour on November 8th.

“Although the ballots have been processed, Harris County now intends to include them in the final vote,” Christopher Hilton, chief of the attorney general’s office of general litigation, said Monday. “We never agreed that these ballots could be part of the final election results, and this afternoon we will petition the Texas Supreme Court to rule that these late votes should be barred, as required by Texas law.”

The application was made on Monday afternoon. Hilton declined to comment on why the bureau had not requested the verdict earlier.

“A court has ordered Harris County to keep polling stations open for an additional hour on Election Day, and people in our county have been voting during that time,” Harris County Prosecutor Christian Menefee said in a statement. “My office will do everything possible to protect every single vote cast. Republican, Democrat, or Independent, no voter should have their vote cast off because the Attorney General cannot accept the results of the Harris County election.”

MORE TO CHOOSE: Harris County election troubles, court orders could cloud election results

On election night, the Texas Organizing Project, the Texas Civil Rights Project and the ACLU of Texas obtained a court order from a judge ordering all Harris County polling stations to extend polling hours to 8 p.m. after the groups argued in a legal battle that some elections were delayed in opening. Locations prevented some residents from voting.

Voters who were in line by 7pm could vote normally, while those who arrived between 7pm and 8pm were allowed to cast provisional ballots.

That evening, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed Mandamus writs in quick succession asking the Texas Supreme Court to set aside or reverse the court order, and the Supreme Court responded by staying that order and said votes cast after 7pm “should be separated”. ,” without specifying whether they need to be excluded from the final count.

Election times were also extended by an hour in Bell County due to early-morning disruptions to check-in systems. Bell County’s attorney confirmed last week that a court order there has not been challenged by the attorney general’s office or any other party.

As in many jurisdictions across the country, determining the official final vote count in Harris County was a slow, meticulous process.

On Friday, the race for the judge’s seat on the 180th Criminal State Circuit Court turned in favor of Democratic incumbent DaSean Jones as the county continued to count its mail and preliminary ballots. Jones took a 449-vote lead over Republican Tami Pierce after Pierce led by more than 1,200 votes the morning after the election.

“This is a calculated move by Paxton to change the election results because a criminal judicial race swung in favor of Democrats during the final count,” said Harris County Democratic Party leader Odus Evbagharu.

Prosecutor: Voting “must not be tolerated”

According to emails shared with the Chronicle, parties including the attorney general’s office, the Harris County Attorney’s Office, the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Harris County Republican Party and the Harris County Democratic Party signed an agreement on Nov. 11 to Processing of provisional ballots.

First Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Fombonne wrote that the district attorney’s office approved the agreement “based on the understanding that the Texas Supreme Court order does not prohibit the tabulation of these votes so long as the ballots themselves remain separate.”

Kimberly Gdula, deputy chief of the Attorney General’s Office of General Litigation, signed off on the agreement in an email: “The state agrees.”

On Sunday night, two days before the Commissioners Court session to confirm the election results, Hilton, the head of general litigation, emailed the parties explaining the legal basis for including provisional ballots cast after 7 p.m in the final and asking for clarification “so that the parties can appeal if necessary”.