The Harris County Office of the Elections Administrator said its elections systems are in “immediate need of upgrades or replacements” in its post-elections report released Dec. 27.

The report echoed Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum’s Nov. 15 request for a “revamped” communications system between the elections judges, his office’s call center and technicians dispatched to perform maintenance on voting machines. It also stated the office needed additional full-time personnel.

“One-time funding is not the answer to this situation; sustained and dedicated administrative funding is imperative,” the report said.

In its efforts to address Election Day issues such as delayed polling location openings and scrutiny over its handling of the midterms, Tatum’s office spoke directly with 774 presiding judges and 727 alternate judges from Election Day, saying in the report that several judges advised the office they had been instructed not to respond to elections office staff due to the District Attorney’s criminal investigation, the Harris County Republican Party’s lawsuit and ongoing election contests.

Cindy Siegel, chair of the Harris County Republican Party, denied that the party had advised judges not to speak with the elections office. She said the party communicated it was up to election judges to make the decision for themselves.

The District Attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Election Day challenges

Addressing delayed openings of polling locations, the report cited 170 of the 782 locations were not able to complete their planned setups on the morning of Nov. 7 due to the celebratory Houston Astros World Series parade held the day before Election Day, as presiding judges were forced to set up later that evening, night and even the morning of Election Day as school districts had given their staff the day off.

The report did not specify which locations were affected in this manner and said only that “several” election judges said this issue caused them to delay opening their polling locations after 7 a.m. Nov. 8.

A lawsuit filed because of these delays led to the court-ordered one-hour extension of voting hours, during which time voters could cast a special provisional ballot; the report said the ballots did not change the outcome of any election.

Additionally, the report said media reports had indicated 24 polling locations, or 3.1% of locations, ran out of ballot paper on Election Day and had to turn voters away. The elections office said 46 polling locations reached out to request additional paper but said that did not indicate whether those locations had to turn voters away.

According to the report, further analysis from post-election calls with the election judges was “inconclusive” due to conflicting accounts from election judges, with 68 presiding judges saying they ran out of paper—61 of them receiving additional paper after their requests—while 22 of the corresponding alternate judges said they had not run out of paper.

“Overall, while the initial media reports suggested a problem more extensive than what the EAO has been able to confirm, the EAO will continue reviewing the processes and will implement systems to ensure this type of challenge is never encountered in the future,” the report said.

Other Election Day issues from the report included paper ballot jams and inaccurate wait time updates at polling locations. Initial discussions of next steps include the need for a real-time ticket and resolution system for calls with polling locations, a voting system software upgrade and resources to cover the 782 polling locations across the 1,700 square miles of the county.