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Houston area election official resigns amid vote count discrepancy

Isabel Longoria, who since 2020 has overseen elections in Harris County, which includes Houston, said her resignation would be effective July 1.

Longoria’s resignation comes amid backlash over issues with the March 1 primary in her county, Texas’ most populous, which included damaged ballots that delayed the reporting of results and a vote discrepancy that has left thousands of ballots out of the unofficial primary results.

Before Longoria announced her departure, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who supported the creation of the elections administrator role and had praised Longoria as the best person for the role in October 2020, had alluded to a possible replacement earlier on Tuesday, saying she had “spoken with administrator Longoria and I’ve expressed my desire for a change in leadership.”

Hidalgo said that she, along with the Elections Commission, the county clerk and the district clerk, would find new leadership “only after a thorough search.”

The Harris County elections administrator position was created in July 2020 following a party-line vote, when Democrats on the Central Count Committee voted to transfer the voter registration duties of the tax assessor-collector and the election management role of the county clerk to an independent office. The position is appointed by the Harris County Elections Commission, which is Democratically controlled.

Voting discrepancy

Longoria’s announced resignation comes just days after she said that about 10,000 mail-in ballots — approximately 6,000 Democratic and 4,000 Republican — had not been included in the final unofficial primary election results. On Saturday, Longoria said in a statement that the Central Count Committee, the body that oversees the tallying of ballots in Harris County, had scanned the votes but didn’t transfer them to the unofficial results. Longoria added that the slip-up had occurred between 1 and 4 a.m. Wednesday, hours after the polls had closed in Texas. Overall, more than 358,000 ballots were cast in Harris County for the primary election, of which more than 327,000 were cast in person, according to unofficial totals.

The discrepancy was first noticed by the Secretary of State’s Office on Friday night, when the new reconciliation forms, mandated as part of the voting law, showed a significant difference between the number of voters and the number of ballots, according to Sam Taylor, the communications director for Secretary of State John Scott.

“While we understand the seriousness of this error, the ability to identify and correct this issue is a result of a lengthy, rigorous process and is a positive example of the process ultimately working as it should,” Longoria said over the weekend.

The votes will be added to the final count at a meeting on Tuesday.

Hidalgo said the controversy should not put the legitimacy of the primary election results in question.

“We have no evidence to suggest that the full count, once certified, that will happen later this week is not accurate,” said Hidalgo. “We don’t need to go there, because that tears down trust in our electoral system.”

The Harris County Democratic Party has called for a post-election review following the revelations.

County party Chair Odus Evbagharu told CNN that the count discrepancy is troublesome, especially because some races could be determined once the tally is updated.

“I don’t care what party you’re a part of. When you find out that 10,000 votes haven’t been uploaded to the final tabulation, I mean, you’re all going to be worried,” said Evbagharu. “We’re all concerned that we need this mistake to be rectified immediately, and making sure that there’s an understood sense that there needs to be urgency here.”

Longoria is also facing a lawsuit from the Harris County GOP; the organization says the March 1 election was “the worst election fiasco in Texas history.” Republicans allege that a variety of issues plagued the election, including a lack of adequate voting equipment and materials.

Longoria’s office shot back in an emailed statement to CNN on Tuesday that the allegations in the lawsuit are “exaggerated and misleading statements regarding what actually happened on Election Day in Harris County.”

“We are reviewing with the Harris County Attorney the lawsuit filed by the Harris County Republican Party,” the statement from the county Elections Division read. “We will address each allegation in court filings as appropriate.”

GOP Chairwoman Cindy Siegel on Monday had called for the resignations of Longoria and her team.

“I think Isabel Longoria and her management team need to be replaced with someone who knows how to run elections. And I would like the courts to provide an independent oversight of the election process for the remaining part of the year,” Siegel told CNN on Monday after announcing the lawsuit.

Hidalgo is also reviewing all the facts of the primary election to determine what happened, according to her office.

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