It’s been exactly one week since the Texas primary election and ballots across the state are still being counted. Over the weekend, Harris County Election officials said 10,000 mail-in votes, “were not transferred and counted as a part of the unofficial final results as they should have been …”
The newly found uncounted ballots come after Texas Democrats held a press conference on Friday citing Senate Bill 1, the state’s voter suppression bill, for the counting delay. Texas Republicans called the delay a “fiasco” and suggested Harris County Election Administrator Isabel Longoria resign from her non-partisan position.
Nevertheless, the delay in final results leaves one of the highest top ticket races in limbo and the second candidate in the Democratic Texas Attorney General runoff race remains uncertain.
Former ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza, who has already secured a position in the runoff, finished Tuesday with 43 percent of the vote, only seven points shy of the magic number to secure the Democratic AG nomination. Next is former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski with 19.60 percent of the vote, and civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, close behind at 19.46 percent.
According to Decision DeskHQ, Jaworski leads Merritt by 1,418 votes. In contrast, Garza leads both candidates by over 23.5 points.
The Signal spoke with Garza, Jaworski, and Merritt about the primary race, the impacts of voter suppression in Texas, and what’s next.
Without final official results reported yet, Jaworski proclaimed an early victory and said he’s in the runoff.
“We’re in the runoff, and I feel fabulous,” Jaworski told the Signal. “We did really well in Harris County on ballots, outperforming my average on the vote generally.”
But without all votes counted, Merritt said Jaworski declaring an early win is irresponsible and undermines voter suppression issues across the state. He also said he thinks the 10,000 uncounted votes in Harris County is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of uncounted ballots.
“It seems pretty irresponsible of Mr. Jaworski to declare a win when no one in the elections process has done so, knowing that we are under a unique year in voter suppression,” Merritt told the Signal. “I’m optimistic, and we’re preparing for the runoff. We’ve also been reaching out to those voters who had mail-in ballots rejected.”
All three candidates condemned Texas Republicans’ hypocrisy behind the voter suppression bill and their role in the recent election mishaps.
Nonetheless, like Merritt, Garza also said declaring an early win confuses voters.
“We have a democratic process, and it can be really confusing to voters to declare victory before we have a clear victor when there votes that are still outstanding,” Garza told the Signal. “The Texas GOP has been very intentional in harming access to the ballot box, so they should answer to themselves for the laws that they are putting forth that puts all these counties in these types of positions. You can’t create a law and then blame people who are implementing it.”
Jaworski, however, said out of the three candidates he can beat Paxton by relating to moderate Republicans — even though he still identifies as a progressive.
“People need to know Mr. Paxton is going to be the nominee, and he’s going to have the GOP moocher that is Trump backing him up,” Jowarski said. “Who is best to beat him? I think moderate Republicans are going to support me over Ms. Garza due to the fact I am a 31-year experienced Texas lawyer with a whole lot of litigation experience.”
While Garza said her lead at the polls shows that Texans want a qualified representative person in the AG position.
“I am reflective of the changing demographics with the state of Texas. I’m not only a qualified candidate, but Texans are ready for representation that reflects them and their community,” Garza said. “I’m someone who is from the border region, I’m an expecting mom, I may be a fifth-generation Texas, but I don’t come from a wealthy, well-established background.”
Nevertheless, with more counting in the next few days, Merritt said he’s still optimistic final votes will tip him into the runoff and argues he and Garza are a better fit for the position.
“The people of Texas aren’t hiring an attorney to work a case, they’re hiring a thought leader, a politician, someone to run the office and threaten policy,” Merritt said. “Joe has been mediating cases for the last ten years that’s his record. We haven’t seen him involved in any of the fights Rochelle has been involved in or any of the fights I have been involved in. So Rochelle and I are the ones with national and leadership experience in politics, Joe used to be the governor of a city before they fired him.”
This is a developing story.