By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org
Election Day is over, but some candidates for local offices are not resting easy just yet. Their races will not be determined until a run-off election on May 26.
In the race for Pct. 1 constable, Tammy Bishop had the highest number of votes and is guaranteed to be in the run-off election. However, it’s still uncertain who will be opposing her as only two votes separated her opponents Jacob Cantu and Bill Griffin.
“I’ve told the candidates to sit tight until next Tuesday because we have 19 provisional ballots for that race that must be counted. The provisional ballot board has to decide whether to accept or reject the ballots,” said Klint Bush, election administrator for Liberty County. “In total, the county had more than a hundred provisional ballots. We also have mail-in ballots that are still coming in.”
Currently, Cantu has a slight advantage over Griffin; however, that could change depending on how the votes were cast on the provisional ballots and if they are proven to be legitimate.
As a longtime volunteer in county elections prior to his appointment as election administrator in January 2020, Bush has seen many races decided by one or two votes.
“There was a bond or tax election that had a one-vote difference in recent years. One or two provisional ballots could have changed that election,” he said.
The provisional ballot board, comprised of members of the Democratic and Republican parties in Liberty County, will compare signatures on voter ballots to those collected on the day of the election at polling locations. They also review the reasons why a person was forced to cast a provisional ballot.
These reasons can include:
- errors in the electoral roll;
- voting in the wrong poll location;
- voter previously requested an absentee ballot but claims to have not received it;
- incorrect addresses or outdated information in the electoral roll;
- voter lacks a photo ID card; or
- voter failed to register as a voter by the deadline.
While another 80 or so provisional ballots must also be reviewed, Bush said it is unlikely that they will greatly impact any of the other three run-off races for Pct. 1 commissioner (Bruce Karbowski and Toby Wilburn), Pct. 6 constable (Zack Harkenss and John Joslin) and Liberty County Court at Law No. 2 (Zack Zbranek and Wes Hinch).
Early voting for the run-off election will take place on May 18-23. Locations are still being considered at this time, according to Bush. The run-off election will not take place on the same day as the May 2 elections for city councils and school boards.
When asked about the rules of voting in a run-off election, Bush said that a person must have voted in a party primary or not voted at all. You cannot vote in a Democratic primary and vote in a Republican run-off election, or vice versa.
“The rule is in place to avoid people being able to sway the outcome of an election,” he said.
Bush is happy to have one major election behind him and says that he is happy that the process ran smoothly despite some complaints that the results took too long to be made public.
“Our job is to be deliberate, not fast. Some people said we were slow on our returns but by 10:30 p.m., we had most of the returns. I don’t think that is bad considering more than 11,000 people voted among the 24 boxes across the county,” he said. “Just the drive time alone for some of our precinct judges was 40 minutes, particularly coming from Cleveland to Liberty.”
He believes that if more Liberty County citizens understood the complicated process that goes into holding an election, there would be fewer complaints that results took too long to be posted.
“I don’t think the process of the election has ever been explained to people. I want them to know. If we just threw things out there that weren’t accurate, I would lose my job,” he said.
Bush said he will be meeting with county officials and persons involved with elections to see what processes can be streamlined before the next election. One immediate need he sees is for more staffing at the courthouse to help precinct judges get the voting equipment and election information inside quickly.
“Some things you can’t speed up. It will still take time to put the numbers into a machine that the Secretary of State has in our office. That machine tabulates elections. That’s all it does,” he said. “After it spits out the information, we verify those numbers with our reports. The numbers then go to the central counting presiding judge, who verifies them.”
Copies of the voting information by precinct is then given to the local party chairpersons, if they are present at the courthouse, and then a copy is given to the media present.
“Some people just didn’t know where to get results. We were giving information to Bluebonnet News, which was the only media source in the courthouse during the election. We were emailing it to the other media sources,” Bush said. “Emily Kebodeaux Cook, my media liaison, was doing a great job of posting the information on the county website and to our Facebook page.”