Did New Voter Confusion Doom Beto's Chances?
SAN ANGELO, TX — The voting process can be confusing to newly registered voters casting ballots for the first time and that’s nothing new. Tom Green County Elections Administrator Vona Hudson Thursday said the Secretary of State’s office was concerned enough about the surge in voter registration that they sent out a flyer to be posted in every precinct reminding voters to confirm their choices before casting a ballot.
The high interest in the race for U.S. Senator from Texas between Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz saw the Democrat and Republican parties registering new voters, especially young voters under the age of 30. The Secretary of State in the first week of early voting sent a flyer to all 254 counties in Texas that was to be posted in every voting precinct that reads: “Make sure to confirm that your summary page accurately reflects your choices BEFORE casting your ballot!”
Still, 291 voters cast ballots in Tom Green County without voting in the Senate race. That’s called an under vote. That isn’t a large enough number to affect the Senate race. It’s less than one percent, but in the down ballot races the number was much higher. There were under votes in every race on the ballot.
In the middle of the ballot were the races for Justice for the Third Court of Appeals. All four incumbent Republicans were defeated by Democrat challengers in the 24-county district. In Tom Green County there were between 1,300 and 1,400 under votes in each of those four races.
In the race for Tom Green County Commissioner in Pct 4. Incumbent Republican Bill Ford got 8,167 votes and write-in candidate Gilbert Gallegos got 892. There were 1,883 under votes.
On the very bottom of the ballot were the two bond propositions for the San Angelo ISD. Proposition A failed by 2,946 votes and proposition B failed by 3,964 voters. On proposition A, there were 2,088 under votes and on proposition B there were 2,085 under votes.
The further down the ballot, the higher the number of under votes. Hudson said there’s no way to know what happened but there is a possibility that some of those voters simply didn’t scroll down to the bottom of the ballot and make a choice and cast the ballot without reviewing the summary page.
Hudson says that’s not a new issue. Voters who register for the first time are unfamiliar with the process and mistakes are made. Even when there were only paper ballots some voters would forget to turn the ballot over and vote in the races on the back.
The results are not official yet. Hudson says the ballot board will meet on Friday Nov. 16 to count provisional and mail in ballots. Tom Green County Commissioners will canvass the results during their regular meeting on Tuesday Nov. 20. There are not enough outstanding uncounted ballots to likely change the outcome of the local election as already published, Hudson said.