Partisan accusations flew Monday as a court was asked to reopen Dallas County ballot counting from the Super Tuesday primaries.
A 10 a.m. hearing is set Tuesday before State District Judge Emily Tobolowsky.
Election officials will ask the judge to allow counting ballots associated with 44 thumb drive memory devices that were not submitted at election headquarters before counting ended last week.
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“We would like to know, how did it happen? Who did it? How could this possibly have happened,” said Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Rodney Anderson.
Democratic County Commissioner John Wiley Price accused Republicans of creating a situation that would lead to problems.
“This was sabotage. This was deliberate sabotage on the part of the Republican Party,” said Dallas County Democratic County Commissioner John Wiley Price.
Price said Republicans in December were offered a joint primary election plan that would have required half as many staff people to run polling places.
“They did not agree,” Price said.
It was the first big election for Dallas County’s new Voting Center program, in which registered voters could cast ballots at any one of 465 locations, not just in their home precinct.
County Commissioner J.J. Koch, the only Republican on the five-member Commissioners Court, said Democrats also opposed the joint election in December.
Koch said he was against the earlier decision to switch to voting centers in the first place.
“I voted no. I said the reason why I voted no. We are not ready to do this,” Koch said.
Instead, Koch blamed Dallas County Election Supervisor Toni Pippins-Poole for the Super Tuesday problems.
“It’s important that we remove Toni Pippins Poole from that position. We need to get someone who can competently fix problems before they happen but also do a clean diagnostic on what happened and not a cover up,” Koch said.
For the primary elections, the Voting Centers plan required each party to provide election judges at every polling location. Neither had enough, but Republicans provided far fewer than Democrats.
“That meant that the Democrats had to run both the Democratic and Republican primary in over half of the voting centers,” Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Carol Donovan said.
Dallas County Commissioners provided $300,000 just weeks before the election to hire temporary workers as substitutes at many polling places.
Price said there was insufficient time for election officials to properly train the new workers.
“This was dumped in their lap,” Price said.
Both sides estimated no more than 8,000 ballots are recorded on the 44 devices and election results are not likely to change with the recount.
Anderson said Republicans made hundreds of calls in the weeks before the election trying to recruit more election judges. The arrangement called for hundreds more Republican judges than had ever been required before.
He said judges who did work the election reported many other problems.
“They were missing equipment, trying to get their polling locations open. They were missing passwords for the equipment. They were missing keys to the tabulators,” Anderson said.
The GOP Party Chairman declined to join Koch in calling for the Election Supervisor’s replacement.
“Not yet. Not until we know what happened,” Anderson said.
Election Supervisor Toni Pippins-Poole replied to a Monday morning request for comment with an email early Tuesday morning. She said ballot counting would resume at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning if the judge grants the request Tuesday.
The email said smaller elections run with the new voting centers plan and equipment in November and December 2019 and January 2020 had no problems. She did not respond to a request for comment on Koch’s request for her replacement.
The new voting center equipment includes touch screen devices for marking paper ballots and ballot scanning devices to record votes. Thumb drives store the ballot scan tabulations and then the thumb drives were to be taken the central locations for final results Tuesday evening.
Each polling location in the primary had a ballot scanner for each party. Officials have not said how the 44 thumb drives that were not initially counted are divided among location or party. The actual paper ballots from each location are still available for recounting, which is what the judge could order Tuesday.
Koch said Republicans at the hearing Tuesday will ask the judge to order that the Texas Secretary of State take over Dallas County voting in November.
“We haven’t shown the ability to operate at a high level,” Koch said.
Price said the joint election to be held in November will be supervised by Dallas County and not the individual parties.
“We will train the individuals. We will be prepared,” Price said.