When does your vote not count? When it isn't counted
Angelina County officials upset with technician, but say glitch won't change election results
The Lufkin Daily News, April 19, 2008. By BRITTONY LUND
If you voted electronically in Box 13 in the Angelina County primary, your vote doesn't count — yet.
Angelina's county and district attorneys filed a petition Friday asking for a recount of the primary election votes after an electronic error caused some votes to not be counted and others to be counted multiple times.
County District Attorney Ed Jones didn't have the exact numbers Friday, but gave amounts of discrepancies he thought were "close." Electronic votes from Box 13, which was at the Chambers Park rock house, were under-counted by 305 votes; Precinct 6 was over-counted by 573 votes; Precinct 11 was over-counted by 275 votes; and Precinct 11B was over-counted by 204 votes, Jones said.
The problems were discovered a couple weeks ago, according to Jones, when Thelma "Midget" Sherman, Angelina County tax assessor-collector/election administrator, and Jim Wark, Angelina County's Democratic Party chairman, both noticed that the number of voters who signed up didn't match the number of votes counted at certain voting boxes.
"(Sherman) had requested an on-site expert to be here election night to run the election results through the computer so they would be calculated and done correctly where there would be no flaw," Wark said. "He did not follow the program that Midget requested."
The "on-site expert," or "site support" technician, forgot to collect the results for one machine at Box 13, the local officials said. He also missed one machine at Box 6, they said. When the person discovered he'd missed a machine, he knew he didn't have all the totals, they said.
"The easy solution was to send someone out, break the seal and get the flash card out and load the card into system," Sherman said. "When he did that he had already plugged in the master (personal electronic ballot), but he had done that more than one time and didn't cancel any of them. When he plugged that one in, it d the others for that location and it duplicated the totals."
Since all of the votes were duplicated, and not certain ones, the results of the election will remain the same, the local officials said.
"While the tabulation errors did not change the outcome of any elected position that was on the ballot, it did cause the number of votes counted to be incorrect," the petition for a recount stated.
As soon as the errors were discovered, all parties involved got together to work on a solution. Jones contacted the Texas secretary of state's office and was told they would need to take the request for a recount before the district court since the votes were secured.
"We certainly want to figure out what happened and have it recounted so that it is correct," said Bob Flournoy, Angelina County Republican party chairman. "We all are in agreement that we need to present something to a district judge who can order this recount."
After a district court judge looks at the petition, the votes should be recounted correctly for the official records. In addition, Wark sent a four-page letter to the secretary of state's election leader, the state Democratic Party chair and the president of the company that sent the site support, Election Systems & Software based in Omaha, Neb..
"The letter requests that action be taken by the secretary of state and the democratic party chair against ES&S for sending an unqualified person down here to tally the votes," Wark said. "His actions created a dark cloud over this election, both parties and the tax collector."
ES&S has not responded to letters or attempts to reach them, according to Sherman. An attempt late Friday to reach the company for comment for this story was unsuccessful.
Sherman said she wants all of the votes to be counted correctly and for the mistake to be fixed as soon as possible.
"Being in charge of the election and being on the ballot wasn't something that was easy to do," said Sherman, who won her job by beating a challenger in the primary. "I tried not to be involved any more than I had to. You have to have trust in somebody. They're supposed to have been the professionals."
Jones said he didn't know how long it would take for a judge to look at the petition and for the votes to be recounted.