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Gov. Greg Abbott calls for investigation into Harris County elections after 'widespread problems'

Abbott's office said voters in Harris County were frustrated by confusion and delays including missing keys and insufficient paper ballots in Republican precincts.

HOUSTON — Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday called for an investigation into the “widespread problems with Harris County's elections Tuesday.”

His office said in a release that voters in Harris County were frustrated by confusion and delays including missing keys, insufficient paper ballots in Republican precincts, staffing problems, and more.

"I'm calling on the Secretary of State, the Attorney General's Office, and the Texas Rangers to initiate investigations into allegations of improprieties in the way that the 2022 elections were conducted in Harris County," Abbott said. "The allegations of election improprieties in our state's largest county may result from anything ranging from malfeasance to blatant criminal conduct. Voters in Harris County deserve to know what happened. Integrity in the election process is essential. To achieve that standard, a thorough investigation is warranted."

RELATED: Harris County Democratic party disputes GOP claim that ballot paper shortage at polls was intentional

RELATED: Roughly 800 mail ballots remain to be processed, Harris County Elections says

Shortly after Abbott's announcement, the Harris County GOP announced it had filed a lawsuit against elections administrator Clifford Tatum and Harris County.

Party leaders said found so many irregularities that they felt the need to file the 20-page lawsuit. They're wondering if the issues were intentional and cited several issues, including not enough voting paper being at certain locations and voters being turned away.

The attorney representing the Harris County GOP said it potentially opens the door for those who are candidates on the ballot and who lost by a narrow margin to request for a new vote to take place.

Harris County Democrats said it's a political ploy.

Harris County Democrats issued the following statement:

Gov. Greg Abbott’s call on Monday for an investigation of Harris County’s elections is “yet another example of the political theater we’ve come to expect from our state leader,” Harris County Democratic Party Chair Odus Evbagharu said.

“We all know Abbott’s concern is not really the 2022 Midterm Election in Harris County. He’s got his focus on what’s next for him, and he’s hoping simply calling for an investigation will play out in his favor politically.

“It’s almost laughable that Abbott has demanded this investigation since he actually sent a team to oversee the Harris County elections last week. Was Abbott’s team ineffective? Will Abbott be investigating himself?

“Our biggest concern about this is that Abbott and other GOP state leaders are trying to criminalize election workers.

“These elections are run by volunteers who are civically engaged and actively participating in the political process, and under Abbott’s watch, election workers have been constantly under attack.

“Already, GOP State Rep. Andy Murr has pre-filed a bill trying to bump penalties for SB1 back up to a felony from the negotiated misdemeanor.

“All of these actions by the GOP could make election workers hesitate about volunteering in the future.

“It should be noted that in July, the Texas secretary of state’s office announced Harris County had been ‘randomly selected’ for an audit of the November election results. This latest call by Gov. Abbott seems redundant.

“Also, Gov. Abbott is acting like Harris County doesn’t examine elections after they occur, and that is simply not the case. The Elections Administrator always conducts a postmortem after an election and from that report, processes are updated and streamlined and corrections in process are made.

“Let’s see what the EA’s report details and learn how issues flagged will be addressed in the future."

Election Day issues

On Election Day, all 782 Harris County polling locations were open until 8 p.m. -- an extra hour – after a court order was filed over issues at the polls throughout the day.

Voters who got in line after 7 p.m. were able to cast provisional ballots but the Texas Supreme Court later said those votes would not be counted.

Issues were reported from across the county throughout the day from 21 of 44 machines being down at NRG Arena to the election judge at BakerRipley on Navigation Boulevard saying they were slow to open the location because they didn't have the proper election supplies dropped off, including the key to open voting machines.

A handful of voters at the BakerRipley location, which is traditionally majority Democratic voters, told KHOU 11 they were waiting as early as 7 a.m. and they'd seen more than 200 people come and go without voting.

Issues were also reported in Sunnyside, the Tracy Gee Community Center, West Gray Multiservice Center in Montrose and several other locations on Election Day.

The Texas Civil Rights Project issued this statement after Abbott's announcement:

“Today’s announcement is precisely what Texas civil rights organizations were worried about when we called for the Department of Justice to send federal monitors to Harris County. After the Secretary of State singled out Harris County before the election, the Governor now calls for an investigation of that county while the county finalizes election results – even though voters in other counties across the state experienced many of the same issues. Launching a criminal investigation of election issues would be an especially clear and alarming escalation of the State’s campaign against the voters of Harris County –  the most diverse county in Texas. The State has proven time and time again that it is a bad-faith actor when it comes to protecting voters. The Governor should rescind his self-interested call for investigations, and allow election officials to do their jobs and finalize the election results.”

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