March 9, 2022

Houston Chronicle Editorial: Sorry, Dems. Republicans aren’t to blame for Harris County election woes.

Houston Chronicle
By The Editorial Board
March 9, 2022

“Some questions are expected to be swirling through voters’ minds come election time: Which candidates to choose? How long will the line be? Should I talk to the hungry-eyed people pushing leaflets into my face or just avoid eye contact?

But there are some questions voters should never have to ask: Should we have to dispatch law enforcement to retrieve voting equipment from a precinct judge’s house? Did the election workers handling ballots get any training? How do voters find polling locations if the website listing them crashes? Should it take four days after the election for officials to notice they didn’t count my vote?

Democrats regularly accuse the GOP of undermining confidence in our elections by, among other things, curbing voter access and perpetuating fraud myths, but this week, the Democratic officials running Harris County elections didn’t need any help sowing distrust in a sacred democratic process. They did it all by themselves.

A litany of errors and an alarming display of incompetence mired the reporting of primary voting results, prompting Republicans to file suit and ordinary voters to wonder if their ballots were really counted. This is the last thing Democrats need ahead of midterm elections that serve as a referendum on their leadership.

At Tuesday’s meeting, precinct captains, election judges and voters from both parties let their rage fly. Election workers said they waited for an hour or more on election night to get help when they called in with voting machine problems. Longoria didn’t directly notify the political parties about the uncounted ballots so they had to find out Saturday on social media.One person let fly an obscenity aimed at the court, and another said, ‘If the general election is run like the primary, the county will be ridiculed and sued, especially if there are any close races.’

Actually, ‘ridiculed and sued’ is the election office’s current reality, but officials should do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Longoria’s departure is a good first step, and the county’s bipartisan elections commission should search for a replacement who has substantial experience running elections.

But we doubt a leadership change alone will magically fix all that went wrong on election night or restore trust that’s been lost….

[We] can see the merits of GOP chair Cindy Siegel’s call for independent oversight over the approaching May runoffs and municipal elections, since Longoria isn’t leaving her post until July.

But Democrats, including Evbagharu, and commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia, need to stop blaming GOP voting measures for this ordeal.

In fact, it’s worth noting that new county reporting requirements set out in SB 1 helped the Secretary of State’s office catch the overlooked votes.

We would’ve liked to see the court adopt Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey’s call for an urgent audit of last week’s elections; the measure failed along party lines.

Republican commissioners Ramsey and Jack Cagle asked many of the tough, detailed questions that needed to be asked. It’s a reminder of the importance of partisan balance on the court. But every member should be equally concerned about this debacle.

Let’s not forget that it was Democrats on commissioners court who decided in 2020 — over fierce bipartisan resistance — to create the independent elections office, appoint Longoria, and remove election responsibility from the elected offices of tax assessor-collector and county clerk.

The county’s Democratic leadership needs to fully own this failing, and take the steps to prevent another. County commissioners and members of the elections commission should ask the questions, get the answers, notify the public and spare no efforts in rebuilding voters’ trust.

Our local democracy depends on it.”Read the full editorial here: Editorial: Sorry, Dems. Republicans aren’t to blame for Harris County election woes. 

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