The Republican candidate for Harris County judge in last November’s election is challenging Democratic incumbent Lina Hidalgo’s victory, two months after she conceded.
Alexandra del Moral Mealer becomes the latest losing Republican candidate on the Harris County ballot to contest the results of the election. Mealer lost by about 16,000 votes and had not previously indicated she planned to challenge the results.
In a statement released on Twitter Thursday night, Mealer says she decided to file the contest after reviewing the post-election assessment submitted by Harris County’s Election Administrator Clifford Tatum.
“It is inexcusable that after two months, the public is no further along in knowing if and to what extent, votes were suppressed,” Mealer says.
“The report culminates with the ultimate ‘dog ate my homework excuse’ of the World Series parade being responsible for delayed openings and fails to solidify the number of polling stations that suffered from ballot paper shortages.”
Mealer is seeking one of two outcomes: being declared the winner or a new election altogether.
Harris County had been heavily criticized over how it handled the midterm election, after voters experienced several instances of voting machine failures and staffing shortages. Harris County’s Republican Party also filed a lawsuit, following the November election, in response to those failures.
Friday is the deadline for the candidates to file contests to the midterm elections.
Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee says he expects more candidates to file challenges by the end of the day, but he also made clear that the decision puts millions of votes cast in Harris County at risk of being voided, and the county could possible have to hold another election for the races being challenged.
“This is a shameful attempt by a group of losing candidates who couldn’t win the hearts and minds of Harris County voters and are now throwing nonsensical legal theories at the wall to see what sticks. Each of them should be deeply embarrassed and these claims should not be taken seriously by the public,” said Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee. “These losing candidates are finally laying bare what we all know to be true – for them, it’s not about improving elections or making sure our elections are secure, it’s about playing games with our democratic systems and refusing to accept the will of the voters.”
Houston-area State Senator Paul Bettencourt, agreed with Mealer’s decision to contest the race.
“Public confidence in Harris County’s election system was damaged by the fact that the Harris County EAO Warehouse had a million sheets of ballot paper on hand, yet thousands of voters were turned away from dozens of polls because they ran out of paper,” Bettencourt said in a statement. “It’s preposterous that Elections Administrator Tatum’s office spent half of Election Day denying that fact instead of immediately resupplying president judges with the needed ballots.”
Sites throughout the county experienced paper ballot shortages, as confirmed by Houston Public Media.
Chris Valdez, communications director with Houston in Action, said that a big focus of his organization on Election Day was monitoring precincts in historically excluded communities.
“Communities where we know historically excluded folks live. And definitely, on Election Day, we saw issues of paper ballots running out at polls. One that just jumps out at me is that…Judson Robinson (Jr.) Community Center had run out of paper in the middle of the day, which to me is really peculiar,” Valdez said.
Andrew Schneider contributed to this report.