The Texas Supreme Court granted the state’s motion for temporary relief to require Harris Co. to account around 2K late-cast provisional ballots separately as part of the county’s canvass of the official election results. However, it did not go so far as to reject the ballots and instead provided an avenue for further litigation.

Polls in Harris Co. were opened an additional hour by court order, but the state Supreme Court ordered those ballots to be segregated. They were counted, and the county contends they were legally cast and should be included in the official totals.

The Office of Attorney General sought to have those ballots thrown out, arguing the lower court erred in extending the poll closing time by one hour. A similar court order kept polls open in Bell Co. for an additional hour, but the OAG has not challenged those ballots as far as we can tell.

In its order, the high court required Harris Co. to “conduct the canvass … as required by the Election Code” and to “separately identify in the vote tabulations the number of ‘later cast votes’ for each candidate in each race.” Once that is done, “candidates, the parties and this Court may ascertain whether the ‘later cast votes’ would be outcome-determinative and so that the parties can assess the extent to which further litigation is warranted.”

The outcome of at least one judicial race could be affected by the ruling: the 180th District Court. On Election Day, challenger Tami Pierce (R) led Judge DaSean Jones (D) by 165 votes. When all provisional ballots – including those cast before 7 p.m. – and legally late-arriving absentee ballots were counted, Jones had a 449-vote lead. It is unclear at this point whether the rejection of 2K late-cast provisional ballots would swing the race back to Pierce.

Once the votes are canvassed, candidates can formally request a recount or proceed to an election contest.