Texas audit officials seek missing records from Harris County’s 2020 election

by Laura Ramirez

Photo: Adobe Stock

One of Texas’s most populated areas, Harris County, received a letter from election audit officials earlier this month advising officials that they should continue complying with requests for information related to the 2020 election. The notice comes as the state conducts a forensic audit of the 2020 election.

The director of the secretary of state’s Forensic Audit Division, Chad Ennis, wrote a letter informing Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum that the records provided by the Harris County officials “still leave many questions unanswered,” with the state still needing crucial information in the ongoing audit, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Ennis indicated that the investigation into the county’s handling of the 2020 election “has revealed serious breaches of proper elections records management in the handling of Mobile Ballot Boxes (MBBs),” citing at least 14 different polling locations that lack chain-of-custody documentation.

Moreover, the secretary of state found serious discrepancies, revealing that the expected number of cast vote records (CVRs) does not match what was recorded on the MBBs in one of the polling sites in the county.

The letter states:

“For example, the pollbook record from DTV-141U reflects 19,216 voters checked in on the pollbook. The provisional data provided reflects 99 provisional votes were cast at that location. The total expected number of CVRs on the MBB associated with this location is 19,315. Yet the actual number of CVRs contained on the MBB associated with this location is 19,716 yielding an excess of 401 CVRs.”

The letter to Harris County election officials was an attempt from the secretary of state to guarantee that the issues found in the audit do not resurface “in the upcoming November 2022 General Election.”

“Given that early voting for the November 2022 election begins in a matter of days, there is an immediate need for us to inform you of our preliminary findings,” Ennis states in the letter.

To further ensure the safety of election integrity in November, the secretary of state will be forwarding “a contingent of inspectors to the county to observe Central Count” by performing “randomized checks on election records, including tapes and chain-of-custody.” These inspectors will also “observe the handling and counting of ballots and electronic media.”

The office of Attorney General Ken Paxton, who will be on the November ballot, is also sending a task force to the county to “immediately respond to any legal issues identified by Secretary of State, inspectors, poll watchers, or voters,” the letter stated.

While the secretary of state reportedly announced that the 2020 election audit in the Texas counties would come to a close by the end of September, per RSBN, the letter did not mention whether the audits in Collin, Dallas, or Tarrant were complete.

Instead, Ennis maintained that the state has “had the benefit of cooperatively working with the other three counties.”

Nonetheless, Harris County will remain on the state’s radar as the county was randomly selected for a “2020-2022 Election Audit cycle — to begin immediately after the November 2022 election,” per the Chron.

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