The paper deficit at many Harris County polling stations on Election Day was more serious than previously reported, according to a new report.
According to KHOU-TV, 121 polling locations initially lacked sufficient paper to accommodate the voter turnout at their locations.
The Elections Administration Office of the county had earlier estimated the number to be between 46 and 68.
The county’s post-election assessment document acknowledged that their inquiry “has not yet revealed how many of these VCs had to turn voters away due to a paper shortage.”
On Twitter, Governor Greg Abbott emphasized the gravity of the discovery.
“Harris Co. election ballot paper shortage far bigger than initially estimated. It’s so big it may have altered the outcome of elections. It may necessitate new elections. It WILL necessitate new LAWS that prevent Harris Co. from ever doing this again,” he tweeted.
Harris Co. election ballot paper shortage far bigger than initially estimated.
It's so big it may have altered the outcome of elections.
It may necessitate new elections.
It WILL necessitate new LAWS that prevent Harris Co. from ever doing this again.https://t.co/Bc3YE3ix5E
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) February 1, 2023
KHOU discovered that the county provided sufficient paper for 600 voters at numerous voting locations. In actuality, a post-election analysis of the county’s equipment projects revealed that the county predicted a turnout of 600 voters at the great majority of its polling locations.
Some polling sites recorded as much as 400 more votes than anticipated, defying the predictions.
A county spokesperson stated that the past was utilized as a reference for allocating paper.
KHOU discovered that 52 voting booths received less paper in 2022 than they did in 2018. In the fall of 2016, each of the three voting centers where more than 1,000 ballots were cast at each site received enough ballot paper for 600 voters.
Remember election day when some Harris County voting centers ran out of ballot paper? @HarrisVotes could never determine the extent of the shortage. So we did our own analysis and found 121 locations did not get enough paper when the polls opened. More at 6 @KHOU pic.twitter.com/O4MnQzTquT
— Jeremy Rogalski (@JRogalskiKHOU) January 30, 2023
“It was worse than what we even knew. And there’s no excuse, in my mind,” County Republican Chair Cindy Siegel said.
“I mean, it’s mismanagement at best. We as Harris County voters deserve better,” she said.
According to the county’s post-election evaluation document, 160 technicians were despatched countywide to fix any problems.
The report said that the county’s “call logs reflect that the Help Desk received calls from 46 VCs (5.9%) requesting additional paper on Election Day. This does not indicate that these VCs ran out of paper and had turn voters away as a result – only that they required additional paper at some point on Election Day.”
The report said the county’s analysis of the problem was “largely inconclusive” because of “conflicting reports on whether the VC actually ran out of paper, and that many responses did not explain whether the VCs had to turn voters away.”
According to the county report, 61 locations got additional paper deliveries on Election Day. However, authorities contacted after the election stated that the sites for which they were responsible never ran out of paper.
“I’ve never heard anything so basic as running [out] of ballots,” election Presiding Judge Terry Wheeler said, according to KHOU.