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One-Third Of Tarrant County Mail-In Ballots Scanned So Far Are Defective, But Will Still Be Counted

A election worker accepts a mail-in ballot from a voter at the Dallas County ballot collection point Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.
A election worker accepts a mail-in ballot from a voter at the Dallas County ballot collection point Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.

Tarrant County elections officials will have to copy potentially tens of thousands of defective ballots over to new, readable ones, county elections administrator Heider Garcia said Tuesday.

Garcia told county commissioners that it seems the state-authorized vendor hired to print the ballots did not print the barcodes legibly.

“We scan the ballots in, and the scanner says, 'I don’t identify these documents, I can’t see the barcode.' When a scanner doesn’t see the barcode, it might as well have been a newspaper you scanned, not a ballot,” Garcia said.

The error has affected about a third of mail-in ballots the county has scanned so far.

There is already a process in place for when this happens. The ballot board — the group made up of members of various political parties that verifies the signatures on mail-in ballots, — will copy the ballots, to make sure they get counted. The board does this all the time for people who send in a damaged ballot, and for overseas voters.

“It’s clearly identified in the law, not just what the process is, but who has to do it and how to guarantee the integrity of the ballot,” Garcia said.

The difference will be in the amount of work. Usually, the ballot board has to copy hundreds of votes. This year, it could be tens of thousands. If 60,000 people return mail-in ballots, 20,000 could need to be remade if the rate of rejection stays the same, Garcia said.

Voters can still send in their mail-in ballots, or drop them off at the ballot drive-through at Tarrant County Elections’ main office at 2700 Premier St. in Fort Worth.

If someone decides to vote in person, but already has a mail-in ballot, they can bring it to a polling location, surrender the ballot and vote at the polling location instead.

Garcia emphasized that the votes will still get counted. While the review of ballots will take some time, he said most of the defective ballots will be tallied in time for Election Day, with the results to be released along with the other early votes at 7 p.m.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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