The confusion surrounding the last minute changes in election results had to do with some new laws in place and technical difficulties, county officials say. There has been controversy since the Nov. 4 General Election in Jefferson County, with a few Republican candidates going to bed thinking they were winners after most of the precincts had reported only to find Wednesday morning that they had actually lost the election. Chief Deputy County Clerk Theresa Goodness said watching the results based on precincts reporting can be misleading, because in Jefferson County voting is “countywide,” not limited to the precinct in which the voter resides. “In the 2013 constitutional amendment election , we changed to a countywide system. A voter can cast their ballot in any precinct on Election Day, just like in Early Voting,” Goodness said. Many voters aren’t even aware of that change, she said. So, for example, when it’s midnight and a candidate looks like they are ahead with 102 out of 106 precincts reporting, that really doesn’t mean every ballot has been counted for that precinct. So when Precinct 1 has turned in their ballots, that could mean there are ballots for different precincts in addition to Pct. 1, and Pct. 1 ballots could also be at other locations. Ballots from every precinct have to be turned in to accurately reflect an individual precinct’s votes, she said.
An M650 Central Scanner and Tabulator made by ES&S, the same model used in Jefferson County elections. But the biggest problem with the election was technical difficulties with the electronic voting system made by Election Systems & Software (ES&S). Goodness said when the public test was conducted on Election Day, the M650 Scanner was not working. It was having trouble reading the mailed in paper ballots, and kept spitting them out, she said.
The first thing the election officials did was to contact ES&S by telephone and have technicians walk them through some adjustments. When that didn’t help, County Clerk Carolyn Guidry asked that ES&S send a technician in person. That technician was in Tyler, about 200 miles away in upper East Texas. In the meantime, the machines were having no trouble with tabulating the electronic votes.
The ES&S tech arrived sometime after 6 p.m. and got the problems fixed. But the delay put everything behind. But the paper ballots still have to be carefully counted because they might be folded or torn or not properly filled out. When that happens a duplicate ballot has to be made to run through the scanner.