WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Oct. 20, three Harris County officials sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting federal monitors for the upcoming elections. The letter comes two days after the Texas secretary of state’s office announced that it will send “inspectors” to observe vote counting in Democratic-leaning Harris County, the third most populous county in the United States and home to Houston. In the secretary of state’s letter, Chad Ennis, Director of the Forensic Audit Division, described how the office’s “ongoing audit of Harris County has revealed serious breaches,” prompting the office to send inspectors who “will perform randomized checks on election records, including tapes and chain-of-custody, and will observe the handling and counting of ballots and electronic media” as well as a dispatch a “task force” from the attorney general’s office.
In September 2021, the Texas secretary of state’s office announced that it would conduct “a full and comprehensive forensic audit” of the 2020 election in four of the state’s largest counties. (President Joe Biden won three out of the four targeted counties, in a state that former President Donald Trump carried overall.) The statement announcing the audit did not outline the reason for the in-depth review, however just hours before the announcement, Trump called on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to create an election audit bill.
Over a year later — and less than a week before early voting begins — the office released its first “preliminary” findings in the letter published on Tuesday. “The timing of the letter is – at best – suspicious,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo (D) pointed out. “It was sent just days before the start of early voting, potentially in an attempt to sabotage county efforts by sowing doubt in the elections process, or equally as bad, be opening the door to possible inappropriate state interference in Harris County’s elections.”
In the letter to the DOJ on Thursday, Hidalgo, along with Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee (D) and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D), urged the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division to send federal monitors to Harris County “to ensure that Harris County residents’ voting rights are protected.” The three officials concluded: “These actions appear designed to chill voters’ trust in the election process in Harris County, and to disrupt and intimidate local election workers as they execute their duties.” The DOJ has not yet issued a response.