Delays in Starr County election results caused by ‘human error’

Results for the Starr County runoff elections were delayed several hours Tuesday because of a reported glitch with the voting machines that led to a manual recount.

However, Elections Administrator John Rodriguez said it was later determined that the problems with the machines weren’t caused by a glitch but human error.

When the machines were tested by the technicians, Rodriguez said, the top candidate for each race was shown as having received 100 percent of the votes.

County officials then reached out to the software company which sent the county new chips for the machines.

In a statement issued Friday, Elections Systems & Software, the manufacturer of the voting machines, said they immediately sent the county a new set of chips — or M100 cards — upon being notified of the “irregularity.”

Those new cards were tested and worked fine, Rodriguez said. However, while the cards for election day voting machines were switched out, the cards for the early and absentee voting machines were not.

So on election day, the early and absentee votes again showed the top vote-getting having received all the votes.

That’s when Starr County Democratic Party Chair Judith Solis reached out to the secretary of state’s office.

Sam Taylor, communications director for the secretary of state’s office, wrote in an email that their office instructed the county to open the ballot scanner and remove the scanned ballots to review them for irregular markings, which is pursuant to Sec. 127.157 of the Texas Election Code.

“As a result of the error in scanning the early voting ballots, the officials decided to manually count all ballots – both those cast during early voting and on election day,” Taylor stated.

The underlying problem, Rodriguez said, was that the M100 cards for early and absentee voting machines were not switched out for the new set of cards which is why those machines continued to show the same irregular results.

“It was a human error,” Rodriguez reiterated. “We’ve been here for 15 years, this had never happened for the past 15 years that I’ve been working here.”

Given the circumstance, the county followed the proper procedures and were in accordance with the Texas Election Code, Taylor wrote.

The results for the runoff elections, which were held for two justice of the peace races, were eventually announced around midnight.

“The good thing about this is what we got the results out,” Rodriguez said. “Late, but we did get them out.”