Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg has launched an investigation into possible criminal conduct by the county government in last week’s midterm elections, when some polling stations opened late and others ran out of ballots, among other things. She has also asked state authorities to help with the investigation.
Ogg confirmed the investigation, first reported by the New York Times, in a statement Wednesday to Houston Public Media. She asked for assistance from the Texas Rangers in an email Monday, saying her office received a referral from the Texas Secretary of State’s office about “alleged irregularities” that “potentially involve criminal conduct” in Harris County, according to the Times.
“Free and fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy,” Ogg said in her statement. “When we receive credible complaints about electoral irregularities, we have a legal obligation to investigate. That’s why we asked the Texas Rangers for help.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who won re-election statewide on Nov. 8 but received fewer votes than Harris County Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke, called for such an investigation in a Monday letter he shared on social media . He requested investigations by the Texas Rangers, a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety; from the Office of the Secretary of State, which oversees the Texas election; and by the Texas Attorney General’s Office, led by fellow Republican Ken Paxton, who also lost in the state’s largest district but was reelected nonetheless.
Also on Monday, the Harris County Republican Party filed a lawsuit against Harris County Election Administrator Clifford Tatum and the county itself, alleging that Tatum violated Texas election laws by posting early voting results on election night and instructing poll workers to issue duplicate ballots to voters who could not properly scan their original ballots, including pressuring the polling judges to allow results to be collected from polling stations by district personnel. The lawsuit alleges that Harris County’s elections were conducted in a manner that “illegally barred tens of thousands of registered voters from voting,” although it only seeks an injunction from a state circuit court and does not seek to overturn race results.
Tatum said in a statement Monday that his office was “fully committed to transparency regarding the processes and procedures implemented” during the half-term.
Harris County Democratic Party chairman Odus Evbagharu said in a statement Wednesday that the party supports a thorough review of the election but “does not agree to call for prosecution of poll workers because they diligently do their job to support.” of the Democratic process.” He also ridiculed the investigation launched by Ogg, saying the district attorney “kept an eye on picking up political points rather than really caring about identifying and solving the issues that are headed for the midterm elections.” in Harris County.”
“With DA Ogg following in the footsteps of Governor Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and the (Harris County Republican Party), she empowers election deniers and QAnon conspiracy theorists,” Evbagharu added. “We cannot help to amplify false rhetoric in the fight to protect our democracy, freedom and rights.”
The focus of Ogg’s investigation and what type of criminal charges may result is not immediately clear. Both the Texas Secretary of State’s office and the US Department of Justice sent observers to Harris County, which includes Houston, during the election. And the Secretary of State’s office has already selected Harris County as part of its 2022 election review, as it did after the 2020 election.
Referring to Abbott’s call for an investigation into the Harris County election, Evbagharu earlier this week called it “political theater.” Republicans lost a key race for the Harris County Judge in which incumbent Democrat Lina Hidalgo held off challenger Alexandra del Moral Mealer, and Democrats also turned over a county commissioners court seat, giving them a 4-1 advantage.
“The results of their investigation will be presented to a Harris County grand jury,” Ogg, a Democrat, said of the Texas Rangers. “We do this regardless of the party affiliation of the complainants. After the 2020 election, we indicted three Democrats and two Republicans. It is my duty as the district attorney-elect to investigate the evidence and obey the law, and I will do that.”
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