Texas Judge Orders New Election for Harris County Judicial Seat
Texas Judge Orders New Election for Harris County Judicial Seat

By Jana J. Pruet

A Texas judge has ordered Harris County to hold a new election for judge in the 180th District Court following a lawsuit filed by Republican candidate Tami Pierce, who lost by fewer than 450 votes in a race against Democrat Judge DaSean Jones in 2022.

Visiting Judge David Peeples of Bexar County issued the order on May 15 in the 165th District Court, citing illegal and disqualified votes cast after hours during the midterm elections on Nov. 8, 2022.

“Judge Peeples’s decision to order a new election confirms what the Harris County GOP has been saying since 2022—The previous election administrations’ handling of our elections was beyond negligent, resulting in voters’ confidence in our elections being damaged,” said Cindy Siegel, Harris County GOP chair, in a statement following the judge’s ruling.

Harris County elections administrators reported incumbent Judge Jones received 534,460 votes to Ms. Pierce’s 534,011—a narrow margin of 449 votes.

Judge Peeples found 1,430 votes were cast illegally, and another 321 votes were cast for Judge Jones after normal voting hours, for a “total of 1,751 votes that cast doubt on the true outcome” in the race. The after-hours voting occurred under a local district judge order, but the order was later stayed by the Texas Supreme Court.

“There were more illegal votes than the margin of victory,” Republican state Sen. Paul Bettencourt told The Epoch Times on Thursday.

He went on to say that he “utterly rejects” the popular talking point that “all Republicans are election deniers because we won this based upon facts.”

In April, the court heard testimony from three witnesses over the two-day trial.

Neither Mr. Brown nor Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Mike Doyle responded to The Epoch Times’ requests for comment on the ruling.

Ms. Pierce’s lawyer, Paul Simpson, said he and his client were pleased with Judge Peeples’ ruling.

“We are gratified by the court’s judgment that Tami Pierce deserves a new election,” he told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “Voluminous, detailed evidence compiled by witness Steve Carlin and dozens of other volunteers revealed many problems with Harris County’s troubled November 2022 election.”

In addition to his ruling, Judge Peeples ordered Judge Jones to pay Ms. Pierce more than $65,000 for SLAPP violations (strategic lawsuits against public participation) related to filings aimed at delaying the case.

“We hope Judge Jones will not further delay justice by appealing but, instead, face Harris County voters in a new election when ordered by the court,” Mr. Simpson said.

Judge Jones, who was first elected in 2018 to the 180th District Court, recently won the Democrat primary for Place 2 on the Supreme Court of Texas. His opponent, Republican Jimmy Blacklock, currently holds the seat.

Harris County Election Day

Just days after the November 2022 elections, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott called for an investigation into reports of widespread Election Day issues across Harris County, the largest county in the state by population.

“I’m calling on the Secretary of State, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Texas Rangers to initiate investigations into allegations of impropriety in the way that the 2022 elections were conducted in Harris County,” Mr. Abbott said in a press release at the time.

Voters and election workers had reported delays in opening polls, missing keys, ballot shortages, staffing problems, and other issues.

“The allegations of election improprieties in our state’s largest county may result from anything ranging from malfeasance to blatant criminal conduct,” the governor continued. “Voters in Harris County deserve to know what happened. Integrity in the election process is essential.”

Following the 2022 election issues in Harris County, where an appointed elections administrator was in charge of managing elections, state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1750, returning the power and duties to the county tax assessor-collector and county clerk.

Mr. Bettencourt, who authored the bill, said the measure was necessary to restore voter trust, accountability, and transparency in Harris County.

Following SB 1750, the senator also drafted SB 1933, which allows the Secretary of State to oversee Harris County’s election process.

Mr. Bettencourt said he feels confident that the new laws, which took effect on Sept. 1, 2023, will ensure the county operates its elections with transparency, increasing voter confidence.

“Not only is it going to go better, if there are problems, the Secretary of State has wide latitude to make fixes, including removing people from office who are willfully violating the law,” he said.

Harris County is the only county in the state with such oversight.

Ms. Siegel urged the secretary of state to quickly schedule a new election.

“The voters of Harris County were disenfranchised two years ago and deserve to cast their ballots in this new election as soon as possible,” she said.

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