Updated 2:35 p.m. CT Tuesday, March 8, 2022
Harris County Election Administrator Isabel Longoria will resign in July, she announced at Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting.
The resignation comes in the wake of a 2022 primary marred by vote-counting delays and thousands of missed ballots.
Longoria told county commissioners she picked the July 1 date in order to have someone in place during the May and June elections, and to allow the county Elections Commission time to find a replacement.
“I remain committed to the office and its mission, and hope to aid in defeating harmful rhetoric to ensure successful elections in the future,” Longoria said.
Longoria’s announcement came as Republican leaders called for the county to reverse changes to the way it administers elections, which the Democratic majority on commissioners court implemented in 2020.
Those calls follow long delays releasing the vote counts on primary election night and the news that the administrator failed to tally some 10,000 mail-in ballots. County Commissioner Tom Ramsey led the effort, with a proposal that Longoria be fired and to disband her office.
“In my opinion, the repetitive dysfunction of the unelected and frankly unaccountable County Elections Administrator Longoria is simply unbelievable,” Ramsey told Houston Public Media on Monday. “Clearly, she is not qualified, or clearly, does not understand what it takes to run an election of this magnitude, or maybe of any magnitude.”
Ramsey called for responsibility for administering elections be handed back to the County Clerk, as well as for the responsibility for registering voters to revert to the County Tax Assessor-Collector.
The Democratic majority on Commissioners Court created the Elections Commission, which appointed Longoria.
Harris County Judge Hidalgo, Longoria and other Democrats have focused much of their criticism on Senate Bill 1, a law passed by Republican legislators that has been blasted as an attempt at voter suppression. Much of Tuesday’s meeting focused on problems with SB 1, and confusion the law may have caused.
But Longoria herself has blamed errors with new voting machines, which require printing and scanning paper ballots.
Ramsey also proposed an audit of the 2022 primary election results, and called for the Elections Commission to request the Secretary of State appoint a monitor to oversee any solutions the commission proposes in the aftermath of last week’s vote count drama.
Harris County has had long election night waits before, particularly under former Republican Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart. But Ramsey said these problems were nothing compared to what took place under Longoria after polls closed on primary day.
“No one I’ve talked to can ever remember this many problems,” Ramsey said. “When it takes more than 30 hours just to count the votes in this particular primary election, and you compare that to the 2010, 2014, and 2018 (midterm elections), where it averaged seven hours. People when they look at this and they say, something that goes that long, there’s got to be something wrong.”
This is not the first issue Ramsey has had with elections in Harris County. In November, he was the sole commissioner to vote against certifying the results of the Nov. 2 election. At the time, he cited concerns about election night delays and requested an independent audit of the process.
“We’ve got some big elections coming up next year,” he said at the time. “We’ve got the primary likely in March, and we’ve got, of course, November 2022, and we just have to make sure that everything is as it should be.”
Longoria has faced broader criticism from the Harris County Republican Party, which on Monday filed a lawsuit seeking such oversight in future elections. The party also called for her firing.
In a separate statement, her office confirmed it was reviewing the GOP lawsuit.
“This lawsuit includes many exaggerated and misleading statements regarding what actually happened on Election Day in Harris County,” the statement reads. “Instead of working together to finalize counting the votes, the party is pursuing litigation to undermine the integrity of elections in this state and further deflect from the appalling impacts of SB1, including the almost 11,000 ballots flagged in Harris County for rejection. We will address each allegation in court filings as appropriate.”