Jones Supporters Clash With Bexar County Election Officials Over Provisional Ballots

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(from left) Incumbent Will Hurd (R-TX) and Gina Ortiz Jones look to secure United States House seat 23 which spans from San Antonio into West Texas along the border.

Composite / Rivard Report

(from left) Incumbent U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Helotes) and Gina Ortiz Jones remain in a tight District 23 race with provisional ballots remaining to be counted.

Grassroots organizers and campaign staffers for Congressional candidate Gina Ortiz Jones demanded Bexar County Elections Department officials hand over a list of provisional voters so they can make sure all votes are counted ahead of a Tuesday deadline.

At a meeting of the Bexar County Commissioners Court on Friday, Jones supporters and local organizers accused Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen and her staff of disenfranchising voters by not providing the list. The District 23 race between Jones, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Will Hurd is tight, with the incumbent holding a lead of just over 1,000 votes in the sprawling swing district that stretches from Bexar County to El Paso County.

“This is public record,” Jones campaign field organizer Kristian Carranza Thompson said at the meeting. “The voters of Bexar County deserve to know whether their provisional ballot was accepted or rejected. The Bexar County elections administrator is hiding this information, and we need it, especially in races as close as Congressional District 23.”

Callanen said that Bexar County Elections staff are following federal and state regulations to ensure provisional votes – which could number in the hundreds – are counted properly.

Commissioner Paul Elizondo (Pct. 2) defended election officials, saying they “received a great deal of abuse from the public” and politicians over complaints of long lines and other issues at the polls.

“Some politicians were speaking too soon and trying to get some kind of a spotlight and were putting out information that was not correct,” Elizondo said. “There was no voter suppression or anything of that ilk going on.”

The hard-fought race is close enough for either side to request a recount. The Jones campaign has said it is waiting on provisional, absentee, overseas, and military ballots to be tallied.

Hurd's campaign manager, Justin Hollis, stated in an email that "while we agree that all votes must be counted, it’s also time for Gina Jones to acknowledge that Will Hurd maintains over a 1,150-vote lead that is insurmountable given the small number of uncounted ballots."

Most, but not all, of those who spoke at the meeting were affiliated with the Jones campaign or a progressive activist group.

As of midday Friday, it seemed unlikely that Callanen would immediately provide the list. She said elections staff are still going through provisional ballots and sending letters to voters to let them know whether their provisional ballot was counted and why or why not.

Provisional voters who were registered but did not present a form of valid identification at the polls have until Tuesday to visit Bexar County Elections offices to make sure their votes count, according to the Texas Secretary of State's office.

Callanen told county commissioners that 82 provisional ballots were cast in Bexar County during early voting. Elections staff received 826 provisional ballots on Election Day, she said.

In Texas, registered provisional voters have until six days after Election Day to show up at the county voter registrar’s office. There, they can present a valid ID or submit a form explaining why they were not able to present a valid ID at the polls.

The form allows for “reasonable impediments,” such as a lost or stolen ID, lack of transportation, lack of a birth certificate, work schedule, or family responsibilities.

Grassroots organizers and Jones campaign staff say they want the list of provisional voters so they can help them make sure their votes are counted.

“The voters would be contacted and … encouraged to go in and try to correct their ballots and understand what happened to their ballots,” Jones campaign senior advisor Mike Murphy said. “If they aren’t able to know their ballot has a problem that … can’t be corrected until after they’ve already closed the process to correct that ballot, then there’s no recourse for them and they’re disenfranchised.”

Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen addresses the crowd at the election office press conference.

Daniel Kleifgen for the Rivard Report

Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen.

Callanen said that the list they’re seeking of all provisional voters in Bexar County does not yet exist because election workers are still going through provisional ballots and sending notices to voters.

The activists and those in the Jones camp say Callanen should turn over precinct-level lists of provisional voters; Callanen said such precinct-level lists don’t exist either.

Callanen also said that voters who cast provisional ballots received notices at the polling sites telling them they need to present their ID at her office within six days.

“They get a written notice that says here it is, here’s the rules, and you’ve got to go cure it,” Callanen told the Rivard Report. “They get it right then and there at the polls. … That’s all required by law.”

Organizers and Jones supporters were skeptical that provisional voters actually received these notices.

“I never saw anybody walk out with a form,” said Rosey Abuabara, who said she worked as an election clerk at Cody Library at 11441 Vance Jackson Rd. during early voting. Abuabara is chair of TX23 Indivisible, a progressive organizing group focused on unseating Hurd.

It’s unclear at this point how many provisional votes in Bexar County hang in the balance because of a lack of valid ID versus another disqualifying reason.

The distinction is important because only those voters who did not have proper ID can do anything about it before next Tuesday, according to Callanen and a Texas Secretary of State spokesman, though some Jones supporters disputed this.

Of those 82 provisional ballots cast during early voting, only three were provisional because of a lack of voter ID, Callanen said. She said it's not yet known how many of the 826 provisional ballots cast on Election Day were provisional because of a lack of valid ID.

Sam Taylor, spokesman for the Texas Secretary of State’s office, which oversees election procedures, confirmed that the only reason a provisional voter would have to show up in person to ensure his or her vote would be counted is because they did not have a valid ID at the polls.

In other cases, such as a voter casting a provisional ballot without being registered to vote, it’s up to county voter registrars like Callanen to determine whether the provisional ballot should count, Taylor said.

“For example, if the voter shows up, and their name’s not on list of registered voters, the registrar would validate that on the back end,” Taylor said.

But Murphy said there are other circumstances in which someone who cast a provisional ballot would be entitled to have his or her vote counted.

Voter ID “is definitely not the only way,” Murphy said. “We’ve heard reports of people being sent to the wrong precinct, for example. Perhaps the registration was wrong and they could prove that it’s correct.”

Taylor said county voter registrars are responsible for doing that work.

“That’s the registrar’s responsibility to fix that anyway,” Taylor said. “The registrar is supposed to be doing that right now.”

 

12 thoughts on “Jones Supporters Clash With Bexar County Election Officials Over Provisional Ballots

  1. Mr. Gibbons writes, “Most, but not all, of those who spoke at the meeting were affiliated with the Jones campaign or a progressive activist group.”

    Doesn’t Mr. Gibbons owe the readers a clear explanation of the 3rd Party involved in this important story?

    Was it the Junior League or Antifa? The readers deserve to know.

  2. Mr. Garza, thank you for reading. In addition to the two Jones campaign staff quoted in the story, I spoke to one member of TX23 Indivisible whose affiliation is listed in the story, one unaffiliated voter, and one member of the Bexar County Democrats (not quoted). Others were there too, and I was not able to verify their affiliations before moving on to other interviews.

  3. Why in the World do they need that list? Federal/State laws are specific concerning this process. That information letter explains process to be followed and contact will be made based on information voter provided on provisional ballot; and this PB will be used to register the voter in County. Why would I want your ballot to count if you can not properly register to vote or determine your voter precinct on election day? Also, sheer nonsense to go to on line voting.

  4. Re: “The activists and those in the Jones camp say Callanen should turn over precinct-level lists of provisional voters; Callanen said such precinct-level lists don’t exist.”
    As a precinct election judge on Nov 6, I compiled the mandated “List of Provisional Voters” and, as required, placed it inside the locked green canvas Provional Ballot Bag with the 12 PB’s cast that day. The list contains only names and precinct numbers, not the contact information that voters wrote on the outer envelope and which, in the case of voters not registered in the precinct, serves as a voter registration application for future elections. Each provisional voter was given an information sheet in English and Spanish explaining how the Elections Department handles PB’s and they would be informed by mail of the Ballot Board’s decision on whether or not their ballot would be counted. Since all 12 of my provisional voters presented a valid ID, they were not given the 2nd information sheet about “curing” their ballot within 6 days. Btw, neither of the precincts voting in my polling place were in District 23.

  5. Fortunately, no official knows how any individual voter voted because we have a secret ballot. Unfortunately, with electronic voting systems having no paper trail, individual voters can’t really know either. The only way we can have confidence that our votes are properly tallied is to chuck the touchscreen voting machines and go to hand-marked paper ballots that are hand-counted in front of witnesses at each polling place as soon as the polls close. We don’t need speedy election results; we need accurate election results.

  6. Why isn’t there a place that we can see/double check that our vote was registered as we voted??? I can get the serial number of a 20 year old stove online, yet we cannot verify that our VOTES WERE REGISTERED EXACTLY AS WE VOTED.

    Really????????

    • MWM, We vote on a secret ballot, however imperfect the voting system. The idea of letting public officials know for whom each of us voted is a horrifying prospect.

      • Joel, Maracopa County reports which elections people vote in and for which party. Not candidates, but depending on the race, this can be use to determine which candidate you voted for.

        Frankly with these shady blackbox voting machines, I’d prefer to have my vote out in the public with a trail that confirms how it was tallied in the election results.

        As it stands now, not only is the ballot secret, but so is the blackbox hardware design, blackbox source code, and how my vote is tallied in the results. Too many secrets for my tastes.

        Especially with partisan judges ruling as they have in the TX25 provisional ballot TRO today.

  7. Uh, if I’d filled out a provisional ballot, do you think I’d want the county to hand over my ID to a group with NO official status to harangue the heck out of me?

    • Mike O, your name is already made available to the public for free if you are a registered voter.

      Head over to Nationbuilder (https://nationbuilder.com) and search for “Free Voter File”, open up an account, and request the Bexar county voter rolls are imported. Ta da! Don’t live in Bexar? Then request your county. Some counties even report which elections you vote and for which party.

      All the campaign is asking is this information be release as required by Texas law so people can follow up and make sure these provisional voters want or get their votes counted.

  8. “Commissioner Paul Elizondo (Pct. 2) defended election officials, saying they “received a great deal of abuse from the public” and politicians over complaints of long lines and other issues at the polls.” They should receive a great deal of abuse. Voting in the 21st century should not entail long lines.

  9. Seems, like there’s a breakdown in the system (ie. such a list doesn’t exist). A judge needs to look at this. Everything during an election has to be accounted for. If election officials cannot keep a hard number on provisional ballots, as Ms. Calallen states, then this is a perfect example of walks, swims and quacks like a ‘duck’.

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