AUSTIN, Texas – Election results are in but in Travis County there were “significant” delays compared to previous elections. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says the delays were not only caused by new voting machines but a statutory requirement to recount some ballots because of “fleeing voters.”
- Unofficial results were released at 3:45 a.m.
- This is the first year for new voting systems in Travis County
- Recounts were required for ballots from 15 polling sites
This is the first time Travis County voters used new machines that utilize paper ballots. At the polls, voters were given a paper “receipt” that inserted into a ballot marker. There they made their selections on a computer which are then printed on the paper.
Voters were able to make sure their selections were accurate before having the paper scanned by the ballot box. The papers were then stored in a locked storage box at the bottom of the device in case there was a need for a recount, and recounts were required.
DeBeauvoir’s office says the Texas Election Code requires polling places to recount ballots where the number of people who check in, and the number of votes counted, don’t add up.
The problem, though, came when some of those paper cards went missing.
“Voters might get the idea that they’d like to take something home that says they voted. Well just like any other paper ballot election, if you take your paper ballot home, you have not voted,” said DeBeauvoir.
“There were ballot boxes that had fewer ballot cards in them than the number of voters who checked in at the voting center,” added Deputy Clerk Ron Morgan.
In Travis County, votes from 15 polling locations had to be recounted. That pushed back when the final unofficial results were released: 3:45 a.m. on Wednesday.
“The staff of the Travis County Elections Division has to open the ballot box and manually rescan, using the array of machines you see, every single ballot from that individual location,” said Morgan.
The Travis County clerk mentioned there were two voters who tried returning their ballots once they realized they had taken them accidentally.
But once the ballot leaves the polling site, it is no longer valid or secure and that vote is lost.
Compounding the problem, the three busiest polling locations all required a recount.
“We have a lot more locations that voters can go to and they’re choosing to go to our grocery stores,” said DeBeauvoir.
Out of the 150 voting centers available, turnout was concentrated in just a few sites. The county clerk says they’ll have to work on outreach to change voter habits.
“Twenty percent of election day voting happening the last two hours is not sustainable,” said DeBeauvoir.
Another delay caused by the new system is no votes are counted at polling sites. They are only tallied once ballot boxes physically reach the Central Count office.
Clerk staff say some ballot boxes didn’t arrive at the office until 11:17 p.m., more than four hours after the polls closed.
Elections staff say the concern is that long delays in election results will undermine confidence.
“We don’t want to subtract from the confidence and the reality of better security that we’ve created by having an election night that suffers under the burden of these new circumstances,” said DeBeauvoir.
Only 15 percent of eligible voters in the county actually voted, which is typical of off-year elections.
DeBeauvoir and her office will be looking at what lessons can be learned from this year and improved on for the 2020 elections.