Harris County officials are calling for federal intervention in state plans to send observers to the Harris County general election


Three officials from Texas’ most populous town have asked the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to send federal observers to Harris County for midterm elections to oversee what state Republican officials see as an effort to “chill confidence in elections.” process” and “intimidating” election workers.

Earlier this week, the director of the Texas Secretary of State’s Division of Forensic Auditing sent a letter to Harris County election officials informing them that he would send a “contingent inspector” to observe the “central count” next week, when. Early voting begins in Texas. The letter said inspectors will “conduct random checks of election records” and the state attorney general’s office will “send a task force … to promptly respond to legal issues identified by the secretary of state, inspectors, voters or voters.” ”

The teams are needed, the secretary of state said, because of findings in an ongoing “audit” of the 2020 presidential election in Harris County, which includes Houston.

A so-called post-election audit in Texas, a state that former President Donald Trump held in 2020, led Republicans in states including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona to press ahead with partisan views that seemed designed to undermine and prove the results of the 2020 election. local Republicans’ loyalty to Trump.

Court Audit Division Director Chad Ennis said in a letter Tuesday to Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum that the audit division identified some mobile ballot boxes for the 2020 general election that “did not have proper chains.” care” and that they are asking for corrective measures.

But top county officials, including Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, as well as Harris County Democratic Party officials, are calling the secretary of state’s moves a “notice” exchange. in the November general election.

Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, both Republicans, are “working overtime to destroy voter confidence with a pressure campaign designed to intimidate our hard-working election workers and sow chaos and doubt in the election process,” Harris County Democratic Party. President Odus Evbagharu said in a speech on Thursday. He added that the Secretary of State’s letter on Tuesday “reads like an attack on drive-in voting, which expanded access to voting during the COVID pandemic.”

“While Harris County’s 2020 voting programs were praised by voting rights advocates, state GOP leaders have worked to shut down many of them,” Evbagharu said. “We are working with the Texas Democratic Party and have contacted the U.S. Department of Justice to express their concerns about what appears to be a calculated attack by Republican leaders in the Harris County election.”

In their letter to Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, Menefee, Turner and Hidalgo suggested that Texas state officials are using an “audit” of the 2020 election “as a pretext to disrupt the election process in Texas’ largest county.” Preliminary findings of the “audit” were described as only “significant suggestions” to improve chain-of-custody processes related to voting methods and equipment Harris County no longer uses.

“These actions are designed to chill voter confidence in Harris County’s election process and to disrupt and intimidate local election workers to ensure the 2022 election is a ‘smooth and safe,’ as the Texas Secretary of State described the 2020 election at the time,” the three Harris County officials wrote.

“We therefore respectfully request that the Division of Civil Rights send election monitors to Harris County to ensure that the voting rights of Harris County residents are protected.”

The secretary of state responded in a statement Thursday, calling the three Harris County officials’ suggestions “absolutely false and a cynical distortion of the law – and the truth” in an attempt to mislead voters, the public, the press. and the US Department of Justice”.

“The Texas Secretary of State has sent election inspectors to Harris County every year, and has never seen a request from the Department of Justice to ‘monitor monitors,'” said Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the Secretary of State. statement, adding that the petition “is being used to spread false information about the true duties of our election inspectors – to observe only the dedicated public servants who will be in Harris County and to ensure the transparency of the election process from start to finish.”

Taylor also told CNN in an interview that inspectors are employees of the secretary of state or other state agencies, but they cannot be there on behalf of an elected official. Inspectors are allowed to observe, but are not allowed to interact with voters or speak to anyone other than the presiding judge at the polling place.

“We send them to many other counties, big and small, every year,” Taylor said. “If 15 or more registered voters ask for election inspectors to be in their county, we have to send them out, so it’s a very common practice that our office has every year to basically keep our eyes on the ground. Many of these big elections are about whether or not proper election protocols and laws are being followed.” when there are discussions”.

Taylor said he did not immediately know how many inspectors would be sent to Harris County.