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Emmett speaks about his county elections administrator proposal

County Judge Ed Emmett has a brief op-ed in the Chron to respond to some concerns about his proposal to study the possibility of an appointed elections administrator.

There have been several false statements made that an elections administrator would be appointed by Harris County Commissioners Court. As laid out by state law, an elections administrator is appointed and overseen by a commission of five members — the county judge, county clerk, tax assessor-collector and the county chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties.

The Chronicle editorial said, “The need for a nonpartisan election administrator in Harris County has become obvious.” And although partisan candidates for the office of tax assessor have made false and outrageous statements in an effort to politicize voter registration, many others from all across the political spectrum have told me they would like to see us consider such an office. Clearly, voters are tired of candidates who put their candidacies above the public good.

I also need to clarify an issue that those candidates have intentionally tried to muddy. Unfortunately, even the Chronicle editorial reflected this error. There has never been any intention to create the office of elections administrator before the November elections. As I said before and after the editorial was published, I personally would favor creating an office of elections administrator only if I believed it to be feasible and only would do so after Jan. 1, when elections for county judge, county clerk and county tax assessor-collector are over and the winners sworn in. That, I believe, would best ensure that the new elections administrator would reflect the desires of the voters of Harris County.

I appreciate that Judge Emmett wants to wait until after the November election to see if we want to take any further steps with this, but he didn’t address the Chron’s assertion that this proposal is only being made because Emmett’s preferred candidates lost their primaries. It’s not unreasonable to ask why this is being brought up now. Whatever the merits of this idea – and again, I’m willing to hear it out – it’s easy to believe we’d not be discussing it at all if Leo Vasquez and Kevin Mauzy were on the November ballot. If that’s not true, then show some evidence that this has been in the works, or at least under consideration, since before the March primaries. And if it is true, then be up front about it. If there really are a lot of people clamoring for a non-partisan elections administrator, then a straight-up admission by Judge Emmett that he thinks it would be preferable to any of the candidates running for either County Clerk or Tax Assessor ought to be a selling point.

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