Harris County and political leaders Tuesday called for an audit and reforms to improve public confidence in local elections in the wake of problems in last week’s primary runoffs that included contests run on the wrong boundaries, delayed results and inaccurate tallies posted online. Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said he will ask the Texas Secretary of State’s Office to examine his office’s election processes after a “human error” in his office caused erroneous primary runoff election results to be posted online for hours last Tuesday. The error made the Democratic runoff for Precinct 2 constable appear to be a blowout for one candidate when, in fact, the correct count had his opponent ahead.
Democratic Party chairman Lane Lewis also called for an audit of election procedures. Lewis referenced delays in the posting of results in May and July, and a Democratic primary race for the Harris County Department of Education run on outdated boundaries. County tax assessor-collector Don Sumners has accepted some blame for the error but says the Department of Education was required to notify him of the change; the department disagrees. “We all want a fair election, so why not have an independent auditor come in and be able to identify, ‘This is what’s going right, this is what’s going wrong’?” Lewis suggested. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
County Judge Ed Emmett – like Stanart, a Republican – revived his proposal that an elections administrator, an appointed official outside the clerk’s office and tax office, be considered. Emmett said 85 Texas counties, including most large ones, use the system. “I’m not saying we need to go to what they do, but if there are improvements we can make, I think we ought to consider making those improvements,” Emmett said. “If there is an error, then at least you have somebody who is a professional election administrator. Nobody reads into it that this is an elected person that’s partisan one way or the other.”