The first day of early voting for the 2020 Primary Elections did not go smoothly in Harris County as multiple voters and staff have reported widespread county database issues.
According to several voters, onsite poll workers did not have updated voter registration information that matched information on recently issued voter registration cards. Other registered voters were completely left out of the available database.
In addition, two election judges have reported that voters came in to surrender mail-in ballots so that they could vote in person, but the database available on the e-Poll iPads did not indicate that the voters had requested or received the mail-in ballots.
According to Alan Vera, the ballot security chairman for the Harris County Republican Party, the oversight could allow for serious election discrepancies.
“If the county clerk has not properly loaded the mail ballot information into their system, then these voters could have voted by mail and again in person,” said Vera. “The same problem was noted for the first two and half days of early voting for the November 5 elections.”
Former State Representative Joe Nixon (R-Houston) was among numerous voters who reported issues.
Nixon told The Texan that he had moved last summer, but promptly changed his registration and driver’s license address. After receiving his updated voter registration card, he voted in the November 2019 elections without any issues. Earlier this month he also received his 2020 voter registration card with his new address.
On attempting to vote on Tuesday, Nixon says the database showed his old address, so poll workers told him he would have to cast a provisional ballot.
As an attorney who often works on election integrity issues, Nixon refused to accept a provisional ballot or fill out a change of address form since he says he knew the error was not his. Poll workers then offered to let him vote in his old precinct.
“No, I’m not going to do that either because that would disenfranchise my vote in my correct precinct,” Nixon says he told the poll workers.
Nixon left without casting a ballot and reported the issues to both County Clerk Diane Trautman (D) and State Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston).
After reporting numerous incidents to Trautman’s Office, Alan Vera received an email reply from Administrator of Elections Michael Winn saying that on investigation they discovered a “sync issue.”
“This did affect some records. It has been addressed. All e-poll books have been updated,” wrote Winn.
The Texas Secretary of State confirmed via email to The Texan that they had been made aware of an e-poll book issue that affected voters in Harris County participating in both the Democratic and Republican primary elections.
“Our office has been in contact with all involved parties to serve as a resource and to provide guidance as they resolve this issue.”
Nixon said he has twice sent a written request to the county clerk asking for a precise and detailed explanation, but has not yet received a response.
Last year some voters experienced similar database problems during the November elections, and the county clerk came under fire for issues and delays in tabulating and reporting election night results.
In an email statement to The Texan, Sen. Bettencourt said the county confirmed in an email to the Secretary of State that poll books were pointed to the wrong database, showing incorrect registrations, not properly updated information or no registrations at all. Therefore, some people were forced to vote provisionally.
“As a result, voters continue to have real concerns about the integrity of the voter roll. What has happened in County Clerk Trautman’s office in this case is not a partisan issue, but a competence issue that has affected early voters in the November election and now again in the Primaries.”
The discrepancies were reported by at least six different polling locations.
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.