Dallas County held an election recount on Wednesday, March 11, more than a week after the March 3 primary. The recount was authorized by District Judge Emily Tobolowsky.
The election recount of about 9,100 ballots did not change any of the race results on either the Democrat or Republican side of the primary. Republican and Democrat party representatives were present at the recount.
Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole petitioned the court to re-open the election tabulation after determining “that there were discrepancies between the number of voters accepted to vote at some vote centers and the number of ballots received at central count from those vote centers.”
Ballots stored on 44 thumb drives were not included in the original tallies. While called a “recount,” it did not involve a full recount of all ballots cast, but was a “paper recount of the ballots from 44 of the precinct scanner and tabulator machines that were not accounted for during the reconciliation process.”
A list of the missing thumb drives revealed that they were from various locations around the county and not concentrated in one area.
No representatives from the Texas Secretary of State’s Elections Division were present at the hearing.
Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch sees the recount as part of a bigger issue with the methods and timeline used by the Elections Department in preparing for the election. He believes it is time for Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole to either resign or be removed from her position.
“She has consistently overpromised and under-delivered,” Koch said.
Koch believes several factors played a role in the election having problems. County-wide voting was instituted last fall. Many counties are moving to this model as a convenience that allows voters to vote at any polling place across the county, not strictly in their home precinct.
However, Dallas tried to operate 454 polling places, instead of reducing the number as allowed by the state election code. Securing two election judges–one Democrat and one Republican–for that many polling locations and training them proved to be a challenge. Over 250 polling locations had only one election judge.
Collin County moved to county-wide voting over a decade ago, but reduced its polling places by nearly half, according to Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet, who was the Dallas County Elections Administrator for 25 years.
Additionally, Dallas ordered new poll books in January at a cost of $6 million because the ones used in November had some security concerns. The last-minute change made training a challenge.
Collin County took about one-and-a-half years to make the change to electronic voting with a verifiable paper ballot. In addition, Sherbet said he implemented training labs so poll workers could come to test the machines and ask questions. The county made videos teaching how to handle issues that might arise and provided manuals with step-by-step instructions.
“The big problem for Dallas County is that they changed too many things at once. For something of this magnitude they needed two years, not six months,” Sherbet asserted.
Bonnie Wells, an election judge in Dallas County, found the system disorganized. Supply boxes were missing items, including extension cords and surge protectors. This after waiting two hours on Sunday to pick up her election supplies.
“My complaints may sound kind of petty, but if they can’t get the easy small stuff right, it gives me concern about the election in general,” she said.
So does lack of training, poor organization, and a short preparation timeline contribute to the need for a recount? Koch thinks so.
“A chaotic election day, tired election folks, too many locations to cover for troubleshooting resulting in long delays for help–these make end-of-the-day mistakes pretty substantial. They were too busy making machines work and screwed up the logistics of getting ballots back to central count.”
Koch hopes to see major improvements before the general election in November. “It is critical that we do a full audit of this thing to find out all of the problems before November to make sure they don’t get repeated,”
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.