Gov. Greg Abbott has asked for an investigation into allegations of widespread voter suppression in Republican precincts during last week’s midterm elections.
“I’m calling for an investigation into the widespread problems with the Harris County elections last Tuesday,” the governor explained on Twitter. “The allegations of election improprieties in our state’s largest county may result from anything ranging from malfeasance to blatant criminal conduct.”
“Integrity in the election process is essential,” Abbott continued. “Voters in Harris County deserve to know what happened.”
The announcement came after accusations that the Democrat-controlled county intentionally failed to provide enough paper ballots to historically Republican polling locations to ensure Democrat incumbent County Judge Lina Hidalgo was reelected.
Hidalgo had been embroiled in controversy prior to the election, with several of her staffers recently being indicted for allegedly rigging the bidding process to award an $11 million contract to fellow Democrat colleagues.
Harris County Republican Chairman Cindy Siegel alleged that “polls weren’t set up in time.”
“We had machines all during the day that didn’t work, never worked, we had scanners that didn’t work, we had understaffed election polls,” she said.
In addition, she added, “And then the grand finale was the fact that we had polls that did not have paper.”
In response, Siegel explained, “We notified the election administrator, Cliff Tatum, at 10:30 in the morning that we had one poll close to running out of paper.”
When a staffer was sent to the county offices to get more paper, Siegel said, “He was told, no, they’ve got sufficient paper.”
Siegel continued, “We had people calling us constantly from our polls, saying ‘We’re almost out of paper, we are running out of paper, we have run out of paper,’ and ‘They have had to turn away people from voting.'”
Siegel suggested that roughly 20 polling locations had run out of paper by mid-afternoon. She noted that “19 out of those polls were Republican polls.”
Alternatively, reports from eyewitnesses at historically Democrat polling locations claimed that “they had thousands of pieces of paper that could be used for the ballot.”
The party has since filed a lawsuit detailing the allegations of “ill-advised and illegal alterations of election procedures.” Republican State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, who represents sections of Harris County, suggested that the Legislature would take action on the matter.
“Voter suppression is everything that everybody talks about in politics, but it happened here in the nation’s third-largest county, and so now we’re going to have to write laws to make sure it never happens again,” Bettencourt continued.
Siegel also pointed back to the primary elections, which saw considerable difficulties that eventually culminated in the elections official, Isabel Longoria, resigning. Chairman Siegel suggested, “We saw eight months ago in the primaries how badly they were run by Harris County.”
Harris County elections have had problems in the past. An audit in 2020 “revealed serious breaches of proper elections records management.”
Harris County Democratic Party Chair Odus Evbagharu denied the allegations. He asserted, “The claim that there were thousands and thousands of people who were disenfranchised, there’s no claim to that.”
“There’s no proof of that,” he reiterated.