The Tarrant County Elections Office has discovered an issue with about one-third of the mail-in ballots that have been returned.
According to Elections Administrator Heider Garcia, the state-authorized vendor did not print the barcodes on the ballots of a sufficient quality that it could be read by the scanning equipment.
Those rejected ballots must be separated, and the ballot board must follow a process outlined in the law for making a copy of the ballot that can be read.
Garcia explained that the process involves ballot board members of both major political parties being present to copy the votes to a blank ballot that can then be counted.
The ballot board is composed of about 80 citizens recommended by the political parties and approved by the elections board. They work in a secure location with limited access.
Republican Kelly Roberson serves as the chair of the ballot board, Democrat Kat Cano serves as the vice-chair, and Rene Perez represents the Libertarians.
Garcia assured the Tarrant County Commissioners on Tuesday that ballot integrity was his highest priority.
“Our goal here is to protect the integrity of the ballot and follow the process outlined in the law,” Garcia said.
“It is critical that you follow the law and get every one of those votes counted,” Commissioner Roy Brooks (D-Prct 1) emphasized.
“It is not the voters’ fault that we hired a vendor who did substandard work, and I demand on their behalf that they are counted,” he added.
Garcia assured Brooks that the process is outlined in the law, and while there are more ballots than usual having to be copied, this problem is not a new one, just of greater magnitude due to the number of mail-in ballots this year.
“The Tarrant County Republican Party’s primary concern in all matters of elections is the integrity of each ballot,” said Tarrant GOP Chairman Rick Barnes in a press statement. “We are working with the Tarrant County Elections Administration, the Ballot Board, and our candidates to guarantee representation of all Parties during the process. We are deploying poll watchers to protect the public interest. It is my firm belief that each individual ballot must be protected, regardless of that voter’s party affiliation.”
Approximately 85,000 mail-in ballots were sent out, county Judge Glen Whitley stated, and of those about 60,000 have been returned. He added that 1,950 are awaiting a decision on the signature verification.
Garcia assured voters who have not yet voted that they can still use mail-in ballots, but that if they are more comfortable, they may vote in person either early or on Election Day. Voters who have a mail-in ballot but wish to vote in person should take their mail-in ballot to the voting location to have it canceled.
Garcia also pointed out that one early voting location per week has had to close for a day or two due to coronavirus cases, but were re-opened quickly.
“We’ve taken staff from our office to get the sites running, then replace them,” he added.
The Tarrant County Democrat and Libertarian parties did not respond to a request for comment.
Editor’s note: The piece has been updated to include a comment from the Tarrant County Republican Party Chairman.
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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.