The commission voted Oct. 30 to tap Isabel Longoria as the final candidate for the county’s new elections administrator position. Longoria is a longtime community organizer and currently serves as special adviser on voting rights to County Clerk Chris Hollins.
“Isabel is someone who I trust deeply, as a matter of someone who is competent and a proven leader in a large organization that is deeply complicated and further complicated in Harris county and the state of Texas,” Hollins said, referring to recent voter-access lawsuits between state and local officials. “We need someone who has her version and her commitment to protect the right to vote in the county, increase voter access and someone who is a problem-solver by nature.”
The position will overtake election-related duties from the county clerk and the tax-assessor collector, currently Ann Harris-Bennet. The new elections administrator will take office after the November general election. Currently, the clerk is responsible for setting polling locations and counting ballots, while the tax-assessor collector is responsible for voter registration.
Longoria has a history of civic involvement in Houston serving on the Houston Planning Commission and on Mayor Sylvester Turner’s LGBTQ Advisory Commission and working with the League of Women Voters and AARP.
She also ran to unseat incumbent District H City Council Member Karla Cisneros and was defeated by a fewer than 20-vote margin in the December 2019 run-off election. The seat represents parts of the Heights, First Ward, Northside and Denver Harbor neighborhoods of Houston.
Critics of the new office have expressed concern it takes election responsibilities away from elected officials—the clerk and tax-assessor—and places them in the hands of an appointed official.
To assuage those concerns, the Elections Commission also approved a plan to begin drafting the vision for the citizen's advisory committee that would serve as a check on the election administrator’s office.
“The citizens advisory committee must be a legitimate committee established in good faith with a clearly-defined and substantive role in community involvement, not one that is nearly [performative],” said Veronica Garcia of Houston in Action, a civic engagement organization.
Longoria’s appointment is not yet official, but the commission authorized contract and salary negotiations to begin. Harris County Commissioners Court will vote on the salary when the negotiations are complete.