Judge hears closing arguments in first trial to throw out election results in Harris County

21 GOP candidates in the Houston area are challenging election results from last November.

By Sarah AschAugust 11, 2023 1:08 pm,

After seven days of questioning witnesses, attorneys made closing arguments Thursday morning in a trial to throw out Harris County’s November election results in a contested judicial race.

GOP candidate Erin Lunceford lost her race in November to incumbent 189th District Judge Tamika Craft by about 2,700 votes. Lunceford then filed a lawsuit asking for the results to be thrown out.

Jen Rice, who covers Harris County for the Houston Chronicle, said Lunceford’s case is the first of 21 lawsuits by unsuccessful GOP candidates to go to trial.

“It’s part of a coordinated effort. But basically, the allegations started right after the election. There were ballot paper shortages at around 20 or so polling locations. Lunceford’s team has determined 3,000 voters were turned away from 29 polls, and that was the basis of their lawsuit,” Rice said. “In the months since then, they’ve been adding to their list. And now they have about 17 grievances ranging from ‘there were ballots without signatures; there were ballots that were counted not following procedure.’ And now they’re asking the judge to weigh in on all of it.”

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Rice said Lunceford’s legal team mostly relied on depositions from Republican poll judges during the trial.

“I would say that their main evidence is that they have gathered information from the election workers who ran the polls on Election Day,” she said. “Each of the polls is run by a Republican and a Democrat judge, and they’ve just contacted the Republicans and they have the testimony from them. Crucially, they haven’t brought in a single voter who said ‘I wasn’t able to cast a ballot.’”

Rice said it is still unclear how much weight the judge will give this sort of testimony.

 “The GOP has mostly made their case based on bringing in their own members. So they have several members of the Harris County GOP who have basically conducted their own audit, and they’re presenting the results to the judge saying, ‘I found thousands of votes that shouldn’t have been counted,’” she said. “It remains to be seen whether the judge will admit them as expert witnesses or not. It seems like he may not. They did have one person from the secretary of state’s office. That’s the Texas agency that oversees elections. She was like an expert witness. She didn’t argue for either side. She was just there to advise.”

Rice said regardless of the outcome in this case, she expects it to have an impact on the other 20 similar cases going forward.

“This case will definitely influence what happens with the others, because they all have the same judge,” she said. “There’s actually no jury. The judge is going to decide all on his own. And he has said it’s going to take him a month to reach a ruling in this case. But I think he’s taking it very deliberately because he knows that the fate of the other 20 are related to this one.”

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