Elections

Texas election officials report complaints from voters who say machines flipped votes

How to use an early voting machine

Here is a short lesson in how to use the electronic voting machines used in the Tarrant County early voting locations. A former election administrator explains the system. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)
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Here is a short lesson in how to use the electronic voting machines used in the Tarrant County early voting locations. A former election administrator explains the system. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)

Texas voters: Take your time when casting ballots.

This advice comes as state election officials receive complaints across the state from early voters casting straight tickets on Hart eSlate machines who believe the machines changed their votes.

Two complaints, reported through a third party, have been made in Tarrant County, said Heider Garcia, elections administrator.

“We have ... tested everything,” he said. “We don’t have any indication that there’s a technical issue.”

The Texas Secretary of State’s Office has issued a statement about the issue.

“As a reminder, voters should always carefully check their review screen before casting their ballots,” states the advisory issued by Keith Ingram, director of elections with the Texas Secretary of State’s office. “If a voter has any problems, they should notify a poll worker immediately so the issues can be addressed and reported.”

This comes as a near record number of early voters are heading to the polls, just as they did during the 2016 presidential election. Similar concerns were reported during the 2016 presidential election.

Election officials ask Texas voters to slow down and be careful when choosing the candidates they want to receive their votes.

“There’s no rush,” Garcia said. “If you’ve been in line 30 minutes to vote, take 30 extra seconds to review the ballot before you cast it.”

Early voting began Monday and runs through Nov. 2.

Early voting machines

The problem is being reported when voters use the Hart InterCivic eSlate machines that are found in Tarrant County and across the state.

After entering a four-digit access code voters receive when checking in, they use a wheel to “select” candidates and an enter button to navigate the ballot.

When all the choices are made, a summary page will list candidates chosen for each race. At that point, voters have a chance to go back and vote in races they might have accidentally skipped or where they see errors.

“The “enter” button on a Hart eSlate selects a voter’s choice. The selection wheel button on a Hart eSlate allows the voter to move up and down the ballot,” Ingram’s advisory stated. “It is important when voting on a Hart eSlate machine for the voter to use one button or the other and not both simultaneously, and for the voter to not hit the “Enter” button or use the selection wheel button until a page is fully rendered.

“A voter should note the response to the voter’s action on the keyboard prior to taking another keyboard action. It is also important for the voter to verify their selections are correct before casting their ballot.”

Election officials say voters should carefully review their ballot — and take as much time needed — before hitting the button to cast their vote.

Flipping votes

Evelyn Brown, a 63-year-old longtime Fort Worth voter, said she had a problem voting this week.

She had gone to the Southwest Community Center on Welch Avenue and had cast a straight party ticket.

When she reviewed the summary, she saw that her choice in the U.S. Senate race — which pits Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz against Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke — had flipped to the candidate in the other party.

She spent seven or eight minutes trying to move back to change the candidate in that race, but wasn’t successful.

“I’m accustomed to using the booth,” she said. “I used the keys that let you move forward and back. It didn’t move at all. It was stuck.”

So she called the election judge over who ended up calling the Tarrant County Elections Office.

In the end, the election judge had to at least temporarily put that machine out of service. He moved Brown to a different machine, where she said she was able to cast a vote for all the candidates of her choice.

Notes are posted at voting booths from election officials stressing that voters need to check the summary page “before casting your ballot.”

Election information

Election officials suggest voters read over sample ballots that are available online at the Tarrant County elections website before heading to the polls.

Early voting for the Nov. 6 general election runs through Nov. 2: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday; and 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Oct. 29-Nov. 2.

For any election information, or details about early voting sites, contact the Tarrant County Elections Center at 817-831-8683.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley
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