An explanation for the 12-hour delay in Harris County election results grew more complicated Nov. 6.
The Texas Secretary of State Director of Elections Keith Ingram explicitly denied Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman’s claims that a state directive was responsible for lengthy delays in election reporting, an email exchange obtained by Community Impact Newspaper on Nov. 6 shows.
Trautman has repeatedly said both in written statements and direct correspondence with reporters that the Harris County election reporting process was complicated by a last-minute directive from Texas Secretary of State Ruth R. Hughs that disrupted pre-approved plans to transmit voting results to a downtown collection center electronically. Trautman said the directive, issued Oct. 23, required Harris County election officials to have constables escort physical ballot boxes to the downtown collection center from 10 drop off points in the county rather than transmit them over a secure “intranet” connection, causing significant delays.
Ingram refuted this claim in an email to Houston-area state Senator Carol Alvarado. Alvarado sent a letter to Ingram Nov. 4 expressing concern over the changes in reporting procedures. Ingram stated that transmitting voter results via the intranet violates Texas Election Code.
“The clerk was planning to use this risky method of results reporting even though they were fully aware it was illegal to do so, and with apparent disregard to the fact that the intelligence community has repeatedly warned election officials since 2016 of the continuing desire of nation states to interfere with our election process,” the email read.
Trautman said the plan the new plan the county used on election night was slow but safe.
"It was the best contingency plan we could come up with on five days notice," Trautman told reporters Nov. 6. "I believe that our original plan was completely safe. Our IT department did, our universal services at the county, as well as our county attorneys."
The last vote count from Harris County was reported at 6:30 a.m. following Election Day, a delay Trautman alluded to in the week leading up to the election. Ingram also refuted Trautman’s claim that the election advisory sent Oct. 23 was the first time the clerk’s office became aware of their planned procedure’s violations.
“Most recently, we met with Hart Intercivic, the voting system vendor for Harris County, on [Oct.] 2 to discuss Hart’s new proposed solution for remote transmission,” the email read. “This proposed solution did not comply with Texas law and we now see that it looked remarkably like what Harris County was proposing to do.”
Harris County was not the only county in Texas that faced delays however. Travis County results were not reported until 3:40 a.m., an issue County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir was partially due to Texas reporting procedures.