Problems In Harris County Primary Runoff Lead To Call For Oversight

The chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party wants an audit to be conducted of the election process and equipment. The call comes after the primary run-off elections were affected with significant problems.

An incorrect vote tally in one race that was posted on the website of the Harris County Clerk's office, was one of several problems that plagued last month's runoff elections. County Clerk Stan Stanart has been busy explaining the problems ever since:

"We were running the elections on two add databases. After we took those two database numbers out of central count, on another computer, technicians used another software program to merge those databases. They incorrectly merged results from the previous results into the numbers, causing the numbers for one or two of the postings intermediate that night to be incorrect."

To add insult to injury, a significant consolidation of polling places left voters and some poll workers confused about where to cast ballots. Telephone and computer problems then slowed the public posting of results throughout the evening.

The problems plaguing the election process were enough for Lane Lewis, chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party, to come before Commissioner's Court with a request for an independent audit:

"We can speculate whether those problems were due to incompetence, whether they were due to design, or simple mistake. Regardless of that, there are problems in our election process, and we have a presidential election coming up in November —and the people who take their time to go in and cast their ballot should be rest assured that it will be recorded and reported accurately."

The question of Harris County appointing an elections administrator was again brought up. Many counties in Texas have them and County Judge Ed Emmett first brought up the idea 2 years ago, but it eventually fell off the radar.

I asked him if it was now time to deliver:

"I don't know whether an election administrator, or whether change the way the county clerk's office operates. But I clearly think you need to look at your election process all the time and make sure that it's as good as it can be. There just can't be any doubts about the election process. I had people come to me and say this is a partisan thing. No, a lot of them are solid Republican counties, a lot of them are solid Democrat counties, and we just need to do what's best for the elections process."

County Clerk Stanart was adamant in not supporting the call for an EA, and Emmett says you cannot eliminate human error.

"There are some counties where the election administrator has made mistakes too. So human error is gonna be human error, regardless. But at least you don't want anybody second guessing."

Emmett has asked the county's budget director to study the possibility of bringing that position to the largest county in Texas.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...