Dallas County officials Wednesday issued apologies, explanations and promises about the delays that caused some people to give up on voting in the Super Tuesday primaries.
It was the first big election for the county’s new "voting centers" plan where people could cast a ballot at any polling place instead of just at their home precinct.
Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch (R) said he visited dozens of polling places and found problems and frustrated voters at every one.
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“We failed in a number of aspects in delivering a quality election to the people of Dallas County,” Koch said. “That was a failure on our part. We should have asked more from elections, ‘Hey show me the proof. Show me your math.’ Because, the math has been wrong on a number of occasions and the math was terribly wrong yesterday.”
The top elected official in Dallas County, County Judge Clay Jenkins (D), saw the strong turn out and long lines differently.
“It shows people are very engaged in the election this year,” Jenkins said. “County-wide voting was a smashing success in Dallas County.”
But Jenkins agreed there were problems.
The new approach required each party to arrange poll workers at all 465 polling locations, but the parties fell hundreds of workers short.
“We had to hire a lot of temporary workers at the last minute who had never done this before because the parties failed to fill their slots as they normally do,” Jenkins said. “We had a judge who went home and left their stuff locked up at the polling place. We had one that quit during the day.”
Koch said the parties had never before found that many poll workers and it was an unreasonable expectation.
“Every one showed up to this election cycle as a rookie because we had an entirely new process. So even our most seasoned veterans were going to be fairly new to this process,” Koch said.
New equipment for the voting centers included electronic poll books to wirelessly verify voter registration. Many polling places had poor internet connectivity that caused many of the delays.
Voter Robert Cornelius said he went to several polling places and found voters having that problem.
“Every time they'd put their license or try to use they’re ID, the machines wouldn't let them,” Cornelius said.
Voter Andrew Hulshult said there were 18 touch screen machines at his polling place on which to mark a ballot, but only a few of them were in use while a long line of voters waited outside because of the registration verification delay.
“Everyone was really nice, but it didn't seem like there was enough people there,” he said.
The touch screen devices for marking ballots are not connected to the internet. Printed ballot are tabulated and votes counted separately from the verification process and Koch said there was no indication of vote improprieties with all the delays.
“I don’t think there’s any type of change of votes or any funny business. This is just pure incompetence and mismanagement and poor planning and there needs to be someone held accountable,” he said.
County commissioners are ultimately responsible since the election department works for them.
Koch and Jenkins said they expected tremendous improvement for the November election.
“Now our election judges have a big election under their belts,” Jenkins said.
Tuesday’s voter turnout was around 23%.
Dallas County GOP Chairman Rodney Anderson said he thought most Republicans stayed home on Super Tuesday with relatively few Republican Primary decisions to make.
Anderson said he expected more than twice as many voters for the November election, the next big test for Dallas County voting.
Dallas, Tarrant, Denton and Collin Counties are all using a new voting system involving paper ballots.
In Collin County, officials say it's slowed down the process of voting and the time it takes to return ballots.
“You have a process that just doesn't build itself to be a fast process. It’s one that needs to be deliberate and slow and methodical to make sure that you cross every ‘T’ and dot every ‘I’,” said Collin County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet.