Harris County elections focus of House committee probe on paper ballots

Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria spent Wednesday answering questions before the Texas House Committee on Elections, including the new rule on paper ballots.

HOUSTON — As new rules on elections in Texas take effect, counties are bound to have new issues meeting a new rule requiring results within 24 hours, the Harris County elections administrator on Wednesday told a house committee.

“This paper ballot system we’re moving to, I think has paper challenges,” Isabel Longoria told the Texas House Committee on Elections. “We have to choose accuracy over speed.”

The comments came during a hearing on the reporting of election results.

Longoria and Harris County Elections Administrator Beth Stevens answered questions from committee members.

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“Those paper ballots to record them appropriately, to get them back into our central warehouse,” Longoria said in response to a question about timely reporting. “That takes time to do properly, to record that chain of custody and then to record the central count committee, Democrats and Republicans both, replicating those ballots and making sure that the intent of the voters recorded appropriately.”

Harris County failed to meet a 24-hour deadline during the counting process for the March 1 primary elections, including a revelation that nearly 10,000 votes were not counted during the initial process.

Administrators told state representatives on Thursday the issue was a miscommunication.

“They were not missing,” said Harris County Elections Administrator Beth Stevens. “They were scanned in, on camera, they are physically in the room. They did not get transferred into the other computer system.”

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Stevens told committee members that the ballot data was not recorded on a second computer system by a staff member. Staffers found the mistake two days after primary voting was over.

“The mail ballots were read into one of our computer systems,” Stevens said. “They have to be transferred into another computer system. The staff member thought that they should be transferred a little later in time.”

No formal action was scheduled to be taken by the committee, but recommendations could come from proceedings that may be used to make changes to the new election laws.

Earlier this year, Longoria announced she is resigning her position on July 1.

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