Questions over late-night ballot counting still linger.
by Walker County News Today staff
Candidate Bill Tutor announced today that he has filed paperwork requesting a recount in the Precinct 3 Commissioner race after questions about ballot count reporting irregularities surfaced last week.
The Events of Election week.
After every local election, candidates and their supporters, the media, and members of the public gather at the Courthouse Annex to await election results. Last week’s Super Tuesday was no exception as a larger-than-usual crowd gathered to see the results of the record voter turnout.
The local Democratic and Republican parties both contract with Walker County to hold their primary elections. Tax Assessor-Collector Diana McRae’s office conducts elections for Walker County.
Election night saw a strange turn of events after this year’s primary election. At about 9:30 Tuesday evening, McRae’s office announced to those at the Annex that all boxes had been reported and that the numbers given out would be the last of the night. Sheriff’s deputies, on site to provide security, began locking up the building and all of the spectators left thinking that the results were a done deal. Local media outlets (including ours) reported the election numbers and announced runoff election candidates. These media reports all indicated that candidate Bill Daugette had edged out candidate Bill Tutor by 16 votes and that Daugette would face the current Pct 3 Commissioner appointee Glen Reader in the May runoff election.
But There’s More to This Story.
Wednesday evening, members of the local Republican party received an e-mail from GOP Chair Linda McKenzie giving another update on voting results, which included about 400 additional votes that were not included in Tuesday night’s totals. Suddenly, the Precinct 3 Commissioner race had gone from a 16-vote difference, which excluded Tutor from the runoff, to a 3-vote margin, which appeared to put him in reach.
A Thursday afternoon e-mail from McRae revealed that four voting precincts had to use “emergency ballots” on election day due to a shortage of regular ballots. McRae’s Thursday afternoon explanation that the “all boxes reported” statement on primary night only meant that all regular ballots had been counted; the emergency ballots were not included in any of the totals.
Officials didn’t tell the candidates, the media or the public Tuesday evening that there were several hundred emergency ballots that would be hand counted throughout the night. The Early Voting Ballot Board is charged with hand counting these emergency ballots since they can not be scanned like the regular ballots. EVBB members stayed at the Annex hand counting the emergency ballots until the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
And the Vote Counting Wasn’t Done Yet.
The EVBB convened one last time on the Tuesday after the election morning to review all of the provisional ballots cast on election day along with any remaining mail-in ballots from military and overseas voters. After processing and counting those ballots, the Pct 3 Commissioner race got even closer; there were now only 2 votes between Daugette and Tutor.
Tutor says that the slim difference in vote totals combined with the overnight hand counting of ballots has left a number of his supporters with concerns about the accuracy of the results. “I think that with all of the confusion about the vote totals, a recount is the way to make sure everyone is satisfied. Otherwise, it just feels like unfinished business.”
Asked what would happen of the recount changed the vote totals, he responded, “I am blessed to have a job that I enjoy; I get up every morning and go to work doing something I love. I entered this race to serve the people of Walker County. If the recount puts me in the runoff race, I’ll campaign to win. If not, then I’ll congratulate my opponents on making it to the runoff and go back to the job I love.”
Rules for vote recounts are set by the Texas Secretary of State.