Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick this week joined other GOP state officials in calling for Harris County to redo its November 2022 election based on claims that voters were turned away due to alleged paper ballot shortages, though Patrick said he has no idea if any voters were actually disenfranchised.
Patrick's comments at a Magic Circle Republican Women's Club event on Monday were first reported by the Texas Tribune.
“How many people went to go vote that didn’t go back? We don’t know,” Patrick said at the event. “So we do need to have a new election.”
Now, let's dissect this.
According to Patrick, actual evidence of election malfeasance is not only non-existent, it's not even necessary for forcing Harris County and its 4.2 million residents to have an entirely new election because the theoretical hypothesis that someone in the county may have not gotten to vote is enough to nullify the entire actual, non-fraudulent vote that already took place.
This is like the Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot people saying "Well, your lottery ticket may be worth a billion dollars, but we're not going to pay out because someone out there may have been prevented from buying that winning lottery ticket with the same numbers and it's not fair to them. We have to have a new lottery drawing. Better luck next time!"
Keep in mind Harris County has 4.7 million people in it, roughly the same number of folks as the entire state of Kentucky. Imagine Kentucky saying "Well, we didn't like the way people voted, we have to hold new elections."
A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office told the Texas Tribune only a court order could force a redo of an election.
Asked how many voters Patrick believes were turned away and based on what evidence, Patrick's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis on Tuesday issued a response to Patrick's comments. "Election deniers will stop at nothing to stay in power, even if it costs us our democracy," he said. "The ongoing attacks on Harris County come from the same playbook that drove extremists to storm the Capitol."
Patrick's comments come a week after Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted a similar assertion. Abbott, without citing any evidence or estimate of disenfranchised voters, said a Harris County ballot paper shortage was "so big it may have altered the outcome of elections" and "may necessitate new elections."
In response to Abbott's claim, the Harris County elections office repeated the response it has offered since election night: that while some voting locations did run low on their initial allotment of ballot paper, "supplies of additional paper ballots were delivered to locations throughout Harris County on Election Day."
An election post-mortem report from Tatum's office found that 68 voting locations reported running out of paper, 61 of which received additional deliveries. At nearly one-third of the locations with reported shortages, election workers gave the county conflicting accounts with some saying they did not run out of paper.
According to the report, "many of them provided confusing answers and some declined to speak after reportedly being advised not to do so by the Harris County Republican Party."
Harris County Republican Party Chair Cindy Siegel denied that claim, saying the party told its election workers: "If they call you, our advice is to talk to them. There's no reason not to."
Siegel added Republican precinct chairs may have discouraged election judges from talking to the county, but the party did not.
Harris County has had a countywide voting system in place since 2019. In the November election, residents were able to vote at any of the county's 782 voting locations on Election Day.
Twenty-two Republican candidates who lost their races have filed election contest lawsuits seeking new elections, including County Judge Lina Hidalgo's Republican challenger, Alexandra del Moral Mealer, who lost her race by 18,183 votes.
In November, Mealer quickly accepted the loss, tweeting a concession statement the morning after Election Day.
Mealer then reversed her position, filing an election contest petition on Jan. 6 that included no evidence or estimate of voters she said were disenfranchised. She went on to claim Harris County Elections Administrator Cliff Tatum "suppressed the voting rights of a not statistically insignificant number of Harris County residents residing or voting in high Republican turn-out locations" and "prevented eligible voters from voting.
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