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County election officials working to keep 'Super Tuesday' blunders from happening in November

Source: KXXV Source: KXXV
BELL COUNTY, TX (KXXV) -

Election officials in Bell County are working to make sure all registered voters have access to a ballot come November. This comes after the area suffered widespread ballot shortages on Super Tuesday.

Area leaders met Wednesday morning to begin troubleshooting the problem, but not everyone agreed on the solution.

Bell County Elections Administrator, Shawn Snyder, said nothing could have prepared them for the voter turnout.

"In 2012, I think there was close to 2500 or maybe a little over of democrats who voted in the entire election,” Snyder said, “This time there were 10,000."

That gap led to massive ballot shortages.

According to newly released data, of the 48 precincts in the area, only six of them ended the day with original ballots leftover.

Officials said this all started after they ordered ballots using a state formula that predicts upcoming election turnout based on previous turnout from a similar election.

However, for the March 1st election, that formula didn’t account for the following conditions that suppressed turnout during in the 2012 primaries:

   - Precinct redistricting

   - A twice rescheduled primary date

   - Fluctuating voter population at Fort Hood

As a result, the estimates for 2016 election turnout were severely skewed.

Snyder also said that Bell County added 18,000 new voters since the 2012 primaries, putting the county at a record-breaking 173,000 registered voters.

To fix this problem, election officials said they'll be ordering 135,000 ballots to accommodate the "active" voters within the county in November. An “inactive” voter is defined as someone who has not cast a ballot in two straight federal elections and/or has failed to return posted mail from election officials seeking to verify that voters address.

While ordering more ballots may solve part of the problem, Louie Minor, a member of the Bell County Democrats, said the group is pushing for a change in the way voting is done

"I was an election judge in precinct 103. There were long lines, people running out of ballots, people getting the wrong ballots,” Minor said, “It’s because of the paper ballot system. All of that would be eliminated with an updated electronic system."

But some county commissioners, like Richard Cortese, argue that the solution isn't that simple.

"Voting machines are good machines, but they've had their tweaks and problems,” Cortese said, “And one of the things that we're already looking at it, we want to make sure we have a paper backup so that we can always go back to what someone marked on their ballot."

For county commissioners, there is an increased concern about creating a paper trail, due to upcoming state legislation that may require it with for counties who use electronic systems.

Those leaders are currently working to find a system that will allow them to do both, but said on Wednesday that it could take years to get the job done.

It’s a timeline that one leader with the Texas Democratic Party, William Rosenberg, called absurd.

“I think it would be disastrous to wait another full presidential cycle to implement this,” Rosenberg said, “I don't think it's productive."

Current estimates for a fully electronic system within the county are at $2.5 to $3.5 million dollars. Due to this, election officials are maintaining that if they are going to spend that kind of money, they'll take their time in making a decision.

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