Election officials call emergency meeting after thousands of ballots rejected by voting machines

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TARRANT COUNTY, TX – An emergency meeting has been called one day before elections because electronic ballot-scanning machines incorrectly rejected thousands of ballots in Tarrant County, Texas. The ballot machines have rejected about one-third of the mail-in ballots returned by voters.

County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia reported the problem to the county council on Tuesday. He said the problem began on Sunday, October 25 as election workers began opening mail-in ballots and feeding them into the scanners.  She told the council:

“We started noticing about a third of them were being rejected by the scanners when they’re imaged.”

Heider Garcia
Heider Garcia- Courtesy of Facebook

Officials believe the problem is the scanners cannot read the barcodes printed on some ballots. Garcia explained:

“What we believe at this point, is that the print shop that did these ballots for us, basically, can improve the quality of the printing.”

The scanners rejected over 22,000 ballots as of Thursday. Garcia told the council:

“So what’s happening is we scan the ballots and the scanner says, ‘I don’t identify these documents, I can’t see the barcode.’ When the scanner doesn’t see the barcode, it might as well have been a newspaper that you scan. It’s just not a ballot.”

Tarrant County is the fourth-most-populous county in Texas with a population of 2.1 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Runbeck Election Services out of Phoenix, AZ printed the ballots. Runbeck issued a statement in response to the ballot issue:

“We were concerned to learn that some Tarrant County ballots are not able to be scanned properly by Hart Intercivic tabulation machines, as Runbeck Election Services is a certified ballot printer for Hart Intercivic.

“This election year alone we have printed nearly 100 million ballots, many of which have been the same type of ballot used in Tarrant County, without experiencing any scanning issues.

“Once the investigation is complete, we will offer our support to all partners and vendors involved to determine the appropriate next steps to ensure that all ballots are properly tabulated.”

The rejected ballots will have to be corrected and re-counted according to Garcia. Ballot replication is necessary every year, Garcia said, but this many ballots.

The process usually involves ballot board members, from more than one political party, manually filling out a new ballot that matches the one that was damaged or unreadable.

Election officials must correct so many ballots that Garcia said an employee will probably use an electronic machine to replicate the ballot. Ballot board members then match the new ballot to the original one to confirm it is accurate. 

One day before the election, officials have called an emergency session because there is not enough personal to complete the re-scanning process.

Each of Texas’ 254 counties counts its own ballots. Texas is experiencing a record-breaking vote count this year. 9.7 million people cast ballots during Texas’ early voting period.

Nearly one million mail-votes were sent through the mail thus far and 8.7 million have voted in person. Estimates are that Texas’ total vote count at the end of Election Day could reach 12 million votes. In 2016, just under 9 million people voted in Texas, according to the office of the Texas Secretary of State.

Scanners are not the only technological problem plaguing the elections this year. Across the country, reports of problems with voting systems have been pouring in.

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In Georgia, a federal judge declined to stop voting with new touchscreen voting machines, but express concerns with the new system. Activists had sued to stop the use of the machines because of vote security issues.

Judge Amy Totenberg wrote in her October 147-page ruling:

“(The challenge) presents serious system security vulnerability and operational issues that may place plaintiffs and other voters at risk of deprivation of their fundamental right to cast an effective vote that is accurately counted.”

According to Foreign Policy Analyst David Shimer’s book Rigged , the government was concerned that foreign tampering was possible with electronic voting machines back in 2016.  According to Shimer’s book:

“The U.S. Intelligence community had reported that Russian hackers could edit actual vote tallies, according to four of Obama’s senior advisors.”

Former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wrote a letter to FBI Director James Comey in 2016 to investigate Russian tampering with the elections, saying he was concerned foreign agents could change election results.  In the letter, Reid told Comey:

“Russian interference is more extensive than is widely known and may include the intent to falsify official election results.”

This year, the FBI issued a warning to the states in September:

“Foreign actors and cybercriminals could create new websites, change existing websites, and create or share corresponding social media content to spread false information in an attempt to discredit the electoral process and undermine confidence in US democratic institutions.”

The FBI issued the warning because millions more Americans are expected to be voting by mail-in ballot this year because of concerns about the pandemic. The FBI is also concerned long delays past election day counting votes could lead to chaos if candidates claim victory before they know the actual results.

The FBI announcement asked Americans to be patient while awaiting results and to get their information from reliable sources. The FBI told Americans not to expect election results on election night.

President Donald Trump has been critical of mail-in voting this year. He has expressed concerns that vote tampering could cause fraudulent election results. He tweeted in July:

“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

 

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