Harris County elections were fair and secure, task force finds

Voters at the polling place inside the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center in Houston on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 Credit: Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

A task force formed to ensure the security of the November election in Texas’ biggest county has found no evidence of wrongdoing after finishing its work.

The Harris County Election Security Task Force was made up of the Harris County Precinct 1 constable’s office, the district attorney’s office, the county attorney’s office and the county clerk’s office. In a report published Friday, the task force said it "received approximately 20 allegations of wrongdoing that needed to be elevated to the level of a formal investigation.”

"Despite claims, our thorough investigations found no proof of any election tampering, ballot harvesting, voter suppression, intimidation or any other type of foul play that might have impacted the legitimate cast or count of a ballot,” the report says.

Harris County, home to Houston, was the epicenter of the voting rights battle that led up to the Nov. 3 election in Texas, with state GOP leaders battling the county clerk, then Chris Hollins, over his proposed changes to election procedures due to the coronavirus pandemic. The fallout is still underway, with authorities arresting a former Houston police captain on Tuesday for his role in an elaborate plot to find evidence for a false conspiracy theory of widespread voter fraud across the county.

And while the task force returned no evidence of wrong doing, the district attorney, Kim Ogg, announced last week that a grand jury had indicted three people for allegedly trying to illegally influence races in two Houston-area state House districts. Two face allegations that they submitted paperwork for a candidate under a fake name in a Democratic primary. A third was accused of sending threats to a Democratic legislator in hopes of scaring her into dropping her bid for reelection.

The task force operated from Oct. 13 through Nov. 3, which was Election Day, according to the report. Undercover officers made 6,311 visits to 122 early voting and 806 Election Day polling sites. The task force responded to a separate 77 calls for service. And it used four explosive-detecting K9 units to to make 323 sweeps of polling locations, as well as "continual sweeps" while voters dropped off ballots at NRG Stadium on Election Day. (The task force found no explosives.)

“We all worked together to ensure our elections, which are the lifeblood of democracy, were free and fair and that any and all allegations were thoroughly investigated," Ogg said.

The four county offices represented on the task force are all led by Democrats.

There were nearly 1.7 million votes cast in Harris County last month. The county continued to become bluer, with Joe Biden carrying it by 13 percentage points, a slightly larger margin than Hillary Clinton won it by four years earlier.