AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Attorneys delivered closing arguments Thursday in a lawsuit asking a Harris County court to nullify one November election result, posing an challenge the election administration in the state’s largest county.
On Nov. 8, Republican Erin Lunceford lost a race for district judge to incumbent Democrat Tamika Craft by 2,743 votes – a margin of 0.26%. She is calling for a do-over, joining the Harris County Republican Party and numerous other candidates in raising concerns about access to ballot paper and equipment malfunctions they say tainted the turnout and vote tally.
“It was run so poorly, you can’t determine who the real winner is. And this is not on Erin Lunceford, or Judge Craft. This is on the county,” Harris County Republican Party Chair Cindy Siegel said.
About 20 of nearly 800 polling locations ran out of ballot paper on Election Night, or just about 2.5% of locations, according to an analysis by the Houston Chronicle.
The county argues that, while errors are to be expected in running the state’s largest election operation, no voter was unable to vote.
“I think that what we saw in this trial was a complete lack of evidence from the contestant Erin Lunceford. A lot of speculation, a lot of litigation over reported mistakes that were made by the elections office, but no real evidence about people who weren’t able to vote or people who cast illegal votes,” First Assistant County Attorney Jonathan Fombonne said.
Out of about 17.7 million registered voters in Texas, Harris County accounts for 2.6 million of them – about one in six of Texas’ registered voters.
The concerns over Harris County’s elections administrations have already spurred legislative reactions.
In June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law to eliminate the appointed office of county election administrator. Responsibility over elections will now return to the county clerk.
The county is concerned the county Republican Party intended to challenge election results before the election took place, continuing a trend of election denialism that has impacted election administrators nationwide.
“I think what we’ve seen… the general narrative that’s been pushed by a certain number of people about how we should not trust our elections officials, that the elections are rigged or whatever it is, that we should actually go and target that people that work in elections that administer elections, I have deep concern about that. I think that what we saw with these election contests is certainly tied to that,” Fombonne said.
Siegel took issue with that characterization.
“It’s constant problems. So this isn’t just a one time ‘oops, we made a mistake.’ This has been a year or more of just really running the elections poorly. So the narrative that this is just a Republican trend… that, quite frankly, is garbage. That’s just them trying to deflect off of what really are the concerns,” Siegel said.
Judge David Peeples of Bexar County is the visiting judge over Lunceford’s case. His decision is expected to take weeks.