Human error to blame for 1,800 missing votes

An “anomaly” resulting from human error led to roughly 1,800 votes at a Hays County early voting site to not count toward the Nov. 8, 2016 election, according to a Hays County press release.

Jennifer Anderson, who assumed the role of Elections Administrator Jan. 1, said only items involving the Anthem Municipal Utility District (MUD) were affected by the missing votes.

Anderson said in a statement that she was motivated to look into issues regarding the Anthem MUD election contest. That race has been mired in controversy after it was discovered two votes in favor of creating the MUD were not counted.

Following an investigation, Anderson discovered one Mobile Ballot Box (MBB), which is a device that communicates with voting booths and records all votes to calculate a final tally in an election, was not counted in the election. Anderson said “dozens” of MBBs are used countywide during the elections.

However, the MBB in question was overlooked after it was taken offline and replaced at the Hays County Government Center early voting site on Oct. 24, 2016, according to the release.

“Normally, when a piece of equipment is taken offline in the middle of an election, it is quarantined and held for tallying,” Anderson said in her statement. “This particular MBB, evidently, was not quarantined or processed properly.”

She added the MBB was set aside and was never tallied on the Nov. 8 election; the MBB contained 1,816 votes.

However, Anderson said inclusion of the votes would not have changed the outcome of any office or measure that has been canvassed, save for the Anthem MUD proposition.

The untallied MBB, according to the release, held two votes “For” the Anthem MUD bond propositions, along with votes for the election of MUD board members.

Anderson said issues regarding the Anthem MUD election have already been corrected in December 2016.

“While I have no way of knowing for certain who cast these ballots, I can say with certainty that two votes for the measures presented were among the results on the MBB that were not tallied on election night,” Anderson said.

The Elections Divison of the Texas Secretary of State’s office has been notified of the issue, Anderson said. She added she would make any results from the internal investigation public.

In addition, the elections office has installed new policies and procedures to “ensure that this does not happen in the future,” Anderson said. She added that sharing the information will “instill faith” in the reputation of Hays County elections.

“This mistake is preventable, and our equipment provides opportunities to identify and reconcile anomalies prior to canvassing,” Anderson said.

Joyce Cowan, who retired on Dec. 31, was the Election Administrator during the Nov. 8, 2016 elections.

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