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Alexandra Mealer says she will file to contest Harris County judge race

The former Republican challenger failed in her bid to unseat incumbent Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo during the midterm elections.

HOUSTON — Alexandra del Moral Mealer, the former Republican challenger in the Harris County judge race, tweeted just before midnight Thursday that she is filing to contest the election.

Mealer failed to unseat incumbent Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who won her second term in office during the midterm elections. Mealer lost the election by roughly 18,000 votes.

Her announcement comes nearly two months after Election Day. Mealer had conceded the race the Wednesday morning following the election.

“After careful review and analysis of the facts available, I have decided to file an election contest," Mealer said in her tweet, which included a lengthy statement. "Every Harris County voter should be deeply concerned about voter suppression and welcome full transparency to ensure free and fair elections.”

KHOU 11 News is reaching out to Mealer for further comment as well as the office of Judge Hidalgo.

Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee sent the following statement:

“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,” Menefee said. “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.”

"These election contests are frivolous attempts to overturn the votes of more than a million residents in the third largest county in the country. The county will now have to spend substantial resources handling these contests, time that could instead be spent serving the people of Harris County,” Menefee said. “Voters have moved on. Public servants have moved on. These losing candidates should move on too.”

The contests being filed request that the more than one million votes cast in Harris County be voided and the county hold another election for the races being challenged (e.g., Harris County Judge, 189th District Court, 180th District Court, etc.). This is the third announcement from the Harris County Republican Party that their candidates would not be accepting the will of the voters. Election contests have also been filed for the 189th District Court and House District 135," the statement said.

Eighteen candidates have now filed to contest election results.

Hidalgo was taking a leave of absence from the office to travel to Colombia to be with her sick grandfather, according to her office.

READ: Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo taking leave of absence

It's unclear for how long she'll be gone.

KHOU 11 political analyst Bob Stein said a candidate has 45 days after the votes are canvassed to contest the election. Menefee said more candidates may decide to file Friday, as it is the deadline for filing election contests for the 2022 election.

Stein explains the challenge requests that votes cast on Election Day be thrown out and a new election held. This is because irregularities at several polling places on Election Day discouraged people from casting their votes.

Harris County Elections releases report on November election

Mealer's announcement comes a week after a report was released hoping to shed some light on what may or may not have gone wrong on Election Day at Harris County polling sites.

Immediately after the November election, complaints of issues at polling locations poured into the election's office. There was even a lawsuit filed by the Harris County Republican Party alleging paper shortages at polling places disenfranchised voters on Election Day. 

Immediately after the complaints, Clifford Tatum, the county's new elections administrator, said he would be investigating. 

"I have to take that to heart and determine exactly, what was that, what caused that, and then ensure that that doesn't happen again," Tatum said in November.

Nearly two months later, that investigation was released, but it doesn't have a lot of answers.

In Tatum's report, he said they were able to speak with most election judges but many provided confusing answers. Some even declined to speak.

"The EAO staff was unable to gather information from all PJs and AJs because several judges advised EAO staff that they were instructed not to talk with the EAO staff about Election Day operations, including ballot paper due to the District Attorney’s announced criminal investigation, litigation brought by the Harris County Republican Party, and pending election contests," the report read. “Although EOA staff was able to speak to most of the PJs and AJs, many of them provided confusing answers and some declined to speak after reportedly being advised not to do so by the Harris County Republican Party.”

Harris County Republican Party Chair Cindy Siegel denied that the party advised election judges to not speak to elections staff, according to the Texas Tribune

The report said their call logs reflect that the help desk received calls from 46 voting centers requesting additional paper on Election Day, but the report did not indicate the centers ran out of paper and had turned voters away as a result. 

The report also said the election office's analysis is largely inconclusive due to the fact that several judges from the same voting centers gave conflicting reports and that many responses did not explain whether the centers had to turn voters away. 

The report details other issues, including locations opening late and 170 voting centers inside school buildings that were not able to be set up according to plan because the school districts were closed the day before to celebrate the Astros World Series Parade. 

The election's office said it will continue reviewing the processes and will implement systems to ensure this type of challenge is never encountered in the future.

KHOU 11 News reporter Janelle Bludau contributed to this report.

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