Trust the vote? A look into Central Texas voting blunders

Posted at 12:24 PM, May 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-19 13:47:50-04

Trust in government and politicians is the big issue in this year's election. And this year, trust in how we conduct elections locally is in jeopardy after high profile blunders on Super Tuesday.

For Texas District 55 State Representative, Molly White, 104 votes meant the difference between meeting for an interview in her former elections office and meeting, instead, at Belton coffee shop.

Her bid for re-election came to end on March 10, 2016 after she contested the original election results and called for a recount.

Though she still lost following the recount, White says the election was botched.

"Can I call it fair?” White said, “No, not when people didn't have the right to vote."

The allegation comes after Bell County election workers severely underestimated voter turnout, which led to massive ballot shortages and long wait times.

White believes the blunder disenfranchised some voters and may have cost her the race.

In McLennan County, Commission-hopeful, Cory Priest says he know a thing or two about voting errors.

Priest went before a judge, on March 21, 2016, to petition for a new election, after losing his bid for Precinct Seat One, by just 25 votes.

He claims that at least 139 voters received the wrong ballot and didn't get to vote in his race. Something that could have easily turned the tide in favor of his opponent.

Priest and White both feel that they’ve been burned by faulty election processes and have become distrustful of the system.

“I would say at this point, I'm pretty skeptical and cynical,” Priest said, “As are [probably] the voters. Because at the end of the day, if our votes do not count we do not have a democracy. "

"It's gotta be fixed and the reputation has to be re-established,” said White, “That this can be a trustworthy."

How to fix the problem, or even if there is one, is a recent matter of debate, as each county used different voting systems.

McLennan County uses electronic voting machines and according to its Elections Supervisor, Kathy Van Wolfe, they had operated them successfully before.

“We had 32 sites, 31 one of them were able to do that, but one was not."

Van Wolfe points to a glitch in their voting system and human error as the problem. It forced election workers to hand out ballots to voters, which led to the mix-ups.

She has since assured the McLennan County Commissioners and the public, that those problems will be resolved in time for the May 24th run-off election.

On the other hand, Bell County is among a shrinking number of Central Texas counties that still use paper ballots. 

Despite the system being called outdated, Bell County Commissioner, Tim Brown, says the commission wants to stick with paper ballots.

"The beauty of the paper ballots is if there's any question you can always go back and recount. There's not any question about whether any of the actual numbers at the end of an election were accurate or not because you can double check. You have a tangible record,” Brown said, “That's one of the reasons we've stayed with that kind of ballot technology so far."

But State Elections Specialist, William Rosenberg, observed the problems in Bell County first-hand and says it’s time for a change.

"The commission, I think suffers from what I call technology paralysis. They're very concerned about what new thing is coming down the road,” Rosenberg said, “They cite issues that other counties have had with electronic voting equipment and that's true and there problems with any system. There is no perfect voting system."

Rosenberg adds that the problems voters saw on Super Tuesday, could keep them from coming back to the polls in November.

"Anytime something goes awry. The first response by a lot of citizens, and certainly they have justification for it because they have seen the effects of active voter suppression for years,” Rosenberg, “And so they're now saying ‘Oh, well of course.’ They're naturally suspicious and justifiably so and they react to this."

Smart devices are increasingly being used for military voters overseas and some places are even using tablets to help disabled voters.

This revelation is causing some to point to this “smart technology” as the answer to many of these Election Day problems.

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