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Texas judge orders new elections after GOP lawsuit challenges 2022 election result in Houston area

HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas judge has ruled in favor of a Republican candidate challenging the results of a 2022 judicial race and ordered a new election to be held in the nation’s third-most populous county, a stronghold Democrat prey to GOP efforts. to dictate how ballots will be cast.

A losing Republican candidate in a November 2022 judicial race had filed a lawsuit calling for a new election in her race in Harris County, where Houston is located. Republican Tami Pierce lost her race for criminal court judge to Democratic incumbent DaSean Jones by 449 votes.

Pierce blamed his defeat on allegations that illegal votes were cast by people who did not live in the county and that some ballots were missing signatures and other necessary information. In court documents, Jones’ attorney, Oliver Brown, argued that Pierce could not prove there were enough illegal or erroneous votes cast in the judicial race to “materially affect this election.”

But in a 32-page ruling issued Wednesday, visiting Judge David Peeples ruled in Pierce’s favor, saying 1,430 illegal votes were cast in the race.

Peeple wrote that of the illegal votes, 983 were cast by people living outside of Harris County and 445 were cast by voters who did not present a photo ID or have did not present a replacement ID.

“The true outcome of the race for 180th District Court judge cannot be determined and therefore a new election is ordered,” Peeples wrote.

Peeples’ decision, first reported by the Houston Chronicle, came after a two-day trial in April.

The date for the new election was not immediately set, with Peeples writing that he would first need to discuss it with the attorneys handling the case.

Brown did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. He told other media outlets that he plans to appeal the decision.

Paul Simpson, Pierce’s attorney, praised Peeple’s decision and said “voluminous and detailed evidence” revealed numerous problems with the 2022 election.

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

Harris County GOP Chairwoman Cindy Siegel said voters “can now regain some confidence in our election process.”

Peeples’ ruling in Pierce’s lawsuit came six months after he dismissed most of the 21 lawsuits filed by GOP candidates challenging their November 2022 election losses. Pierce’s lawsuit was the only unresolved case.

In his ruling last year for a lawsuit in another judicial race, Peeples wrote that he “found numerous errors” and election code violations in Harris County. But there weren’t enough votes in the race between candidates Erin Lunceford and Tamika Craft to warrant overturning this election, he wrote.

Harris County, which President Joe Biden won by double digits in 2020, has become a recurring target of Republican lawmakers who have rushed to impose stricter voting measures and passed a law in 2023 that could allow the State to take over county elections.

The Houston lawsuits follow similar legal challenges that have become more common across the country following baseless conspiracy theories propagated by former President Donald Trump and his supporters, alleging that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen.

Elections have been scrutinized for several years now in Harris County, which has nearly 5 million residents, most of whom are Latino or black. Problems included long lines, poll workers, ballot shortages and ballots that were not counted on election day.

Harris County, like much of the rest of Texas, had already voted Republican. But demographic shifts in the county are trending toward younger residents and minorities, groups that tend to vote Democratic, experts say. The state’s other large urban areas, such as Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio, also vote Democratic.

In recent years, new elections have been ordered in other parts of the country due to various problems.

In November, a judge ordered a new mayoral election in Bridgeport, Connecticut, after discovering surveillance videos showing people filling out mail-in ballots in outdoor collection boxes. In December, a Louisiana judge ordered a new election in a sheriff’s race after finding evidence that a handful of ballots were cast illegally.

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Follow Juan A. Lozano on X: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

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