Heider Garcia, the Elections Administrator for Tarrant County, Texas, has submitted his resignation to Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare, effective June 23, 2023.
Garcia’s decision comes ahead of the May 6th Joint Elections in Tarrant County. He expressed his reasons for resigning in a letter addressed to newly elected County Judge O’Hare and Tarrant County Administrator GK Maenius.
In the letter, Garcia wrote, “Judge O’Hare, my formula to ‘administer a transparent election’ stands on respect and zero politics; compromising on these values is not an option for me. You made it clear in our last meeting that your formula is different, thus, my decision to leave. I wish you the best; Tarrant County deserves that you find success.”
Garcia’s resignation comes after Tarrant County faced significant issues with processing mail-in ballots during the 2020 election. Over 20,000 out of the estimated 60,000 mail-in ballots had problems being read by the tabulators, causing delays and concerns about the accuracy of the results. It was revealed that the mail-in ballots used in Tarrant County were printed by Runbeck Printing in Arizona, the same company that printed the ballots for Maricopa County’s 2020 and 2022 elections, which also faced printing issues.
The former Smartmatic executive was hired in 2018 by Tarrant County and presided over the 2020 General Election in Tarrant County. The county voted for a Democrat president for the first time in 56 years.
Garcia’s departure raises questions about the future of election administration in Tarrant County and the steps that will be taken to address the challenges faced in recent elections. The issue of transparency and the handling of mail-in ballots are likely to be areas of focus as the county moves forward with their upcoming elections.
After the 2022 midterm election, the relationship between Republican state leaders in Texas and election officials in Democratic-leaning Harris County, which includes the city of Houston, has reached a boiling point. Republicans are accusing Harris County officials of “election improprieties” that led to delayed polling site openings, paper ballot shortages, and staffing issues on Election Day, among other allegations.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced in November that she was mandated to open an investigation into the county’s midterm election following requests from Republican Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas secretary of state’s office.
In a letter dated November 14, the secretary of state’s office informed Ogg that it was seeking to review “possible unlawful conduct regarding the handling of blank paper ballots” during the election. State officials claim that their preliminary investigation, based on interviews with election judges, found that the county may have violated at least two sections of the Texas Election Code.
State officials have declined to answer questions about potential criminal charges against Harris County, citing the ongoing nature of the probe. The Secretary of State’s office also stated that it had dispatched staff to Harris County on Election Day to help resolve any issues. It is amid this heightened scrutiny of elections in the State of Texas that Garcia resigns.
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