State of Texas

Texas Harris County Ballot Counting Challenge

Paxton v. Harris County Commissioners Court

Petition filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) against the Harris County Commissioners Court, Harris County judge and county elections administrator seeking emergency relief from the Texas Supreme Court to prohibit the counting of ballots cast during Harris County’s extended polling hours during the Nov. 8, 2022 election. The petition specifically alleges that the ballots cast during the county’s one-hour long polling hours extension — which was granted by a trial court on Nov. 8 after the Texas Organizing Project sought the extension because numerous polling places failed to open on time at 7 a.m. CST — were cast in violation of Texas law. Notably, following the Nov. 8 court-ordered extension, Paxton filed a petition in the Texas Supreme Court asking it to pause the order extending Harris County’s polling hours. Subsequently, the Texas Supreme Court stayed (meaning paused) the trial court’s order and ordered that “Later cast votes should be segregated.” In this newly filed petition, Paxton asserts that “Harris County intends to compound its election day mishaps by including the unlawfully cast ballots as part of the canvass.” He further argues that according to Texas law, polls must close at 7 p.m CST and voters can only cast ballots past 7 p.m. CST if they are in line before the polls close. Lastly, he claims that the trial court’s Nov. 8 order allowing polling hours to be extended also violated Texas law. Paxton ultimately asks the Texas Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus (a court order compelling a party to take a certain action) to order “Harris County to include in its canvass only those ballots cast in accordance with” Texas law (meaning ballots that were cast by voters who were in line before the close of polls at 7 p.m. CST). 

On Nov. 22, the Texas Supreme Court issued a temporary order directing Harris County to count ballots as required by Texas law and to “separately identify in the vote tabulations the number of ‘later cast votes’ for each candidate in each race…[so] this Court may ascertain whether the ‘later cast votes’ would be outcome-determinative and so that the parties can assess the extent to which further litigation is warranted.” Additionally, the court ordered Harris County to “provide the Court with a copy of the canvass results, including the separately tabulated ‘later cast votes,’ as soon as they are available.”

On July 21, 2023, the Texas Supreme Court dismissed the case as moot.

Case Documents

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