Texas Attorney General Seeks To Prohibit Counting of Late Cast Ballots in Harris County
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, Nov. 21, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) filed a petition in the Texas Supreme Court seeking emergency relief to prohibit the counting of ballots cast during Harris County’s extended polling hours on Election Day held on Nov. 8, 2022. The petition, which names the Harris County Commissioners Court, Harris County judge and county elections administrator as respondents, 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 yesterday’s 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). Notably, Paxton did not challenge provisional ballots cast during a one-hour long Election Day polling hours extension in Bell County, a Republican-leaning county.
According to the Texas Tribune, if Paxton’s request were to be granted, approximately 2,000 provisional ballots cast during the extended polling hour would be discarded, an outcome which could be consequential for close races that have not yet been called. Concurrently, the Harris County GOP’s lawsuit against the county’s election officials alleging “multiple instances of ill-advised and illegal alterations of election procedures” during the Nov. 8 midterm elections is ongoing.