Tarrant County seeks to hire more vote counters as problems with defective ballots causes issues

The Tarrant County Election Board held an emergency meeting Monday morning to deal with a need for additional members of the Early Voting Ballot Board.

The additional board members are needed to deal with the defective mail-in ballots that have to be rescanned due to a printing error. Electronic scanners had rejected about a third of mailed ballots in Tarrant County, Heider Garcia, the Tarrant County Elections Administrator, told County Commissioners last week.

Officials say that over the weekend they realized that a staffing shortage could delay the count of more than 4,500 mail-in ballots received, but not yet counted, by the county. The county is also expecting 23,000 other absentee ballots to be returned. Another reason for the need of additional board member is that many board members are unable to perform their duties due to COVID-19.

Late Monday, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott today called upon Republicans in Tarrant County to volunteer as poll watchers to help make sure absentee ballots are properly processed.
Due to an error with a Tarrant County vendor, many absentee ballots must be processed manually, and poll watchers and poll workers are needed to ensure ballots are counted and election integrity is upheld.

The Governor has asked former Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey to organize volunteers in Tarrant County.
GOP voters in Tarrant County who are not on the ballot are eligible to volunteer.

“We must ensure that the election process remains transparent, which is why I am calling upon Republicans in Tarrant County to volunteer as poll watchers to help make sure absentee ballots are properly processed and counted,” said Governor Abbott. “With the leadership of former Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey and the help of Tarrant County Republicans, we will ensure ballots are properly counted in Tarrant County and that the election process receives the thorough security and integrity we deserve.”
Meanwhile, in other Texas election news, a federal judge on Monday rejected another last-ditch Republican effort to invalidate nearly 127,000 votes in Houston because the ballots were cast at drive-thru polling centers established during the pandemic.

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The lawsuit was brought by conservative Texas activists who have railed against expanded voting access in Harris County, where a record 1.4 million early votes have already been cast. The county is the nation’s third largest and a crucial battleground in Texas, where President Donald Trump and Republicans are bracing for the closest election in decades on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s decision to hear arguments on the brink of Election Day drew concern from voting rights activists, and came after the Texas Supreme Court rejected a nearly identical challenge over the weekend.

Hanen said the opponents to drive-thru centers — who were represented by former Harris County GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill— had no standing to bring a lawsuit. He added that people had already voted and that conservative activists had months to bring a challenge sooner.

But Hanen still expressed doubts about whether Texas law allowed anyone to vote from their car, even in a pandemic.

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“If I were voting tomorrow, I would not vote in a drive-thru just out of my concern as to whether that’s legal or not,” Hanen said.

Woodfill said he would immediately appeal the decision, accusing Harris County officials of using their office to help Democrats win Tuesday.

“If Harris County goes against Trump in large enough numbers, then we could lose Texas. And if Trump loses Texas then we lose the national election,” Woodfill said after the ruling. “As far as I’m concerned this is ground zero.”

Another 20,000 or more voters were expected to use drive-thru polling locations Tuesday, said Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, the county’s top elections official. Several voters who already used the drive-thru centers rushed to join mounting opposition to the lawsuit, including a Houston attorney whose wife was 35 weeks pregnant when she cast her ballot. She gave birth to twins Friday.

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“My vote counts,” David Hobbs said. “My wife’s vote counts.” Trump won Texas by nine points in 2016 but polls have shown Democrat Joe Biden still within reach in America’s biggest red state. Democrats also need to flip only nine seats to reclaim a majority in the Texas House for the first time in 20 years, and have aggressively targeted several races in Harris County. – Associated Press contributed to this report