Don’t mess with Texas Elections

hand counting ballots
Republicans push for antiquated, error-prone ballot counting system

Toplines & Key Facts: 

  • Republicans reject modernity 
  • Hand counting is slower, costlier
  • Plan inserts needless opportunities for human error

At the polls in November, you likely used an express voting machine to cast your vote, and deposited the ballot into a tabulator which would check for errors and keep a tally of received ballots. This is the last step in your part of the election process; but the election administration process continues and relies on these machines because of their accuracy and speed to collect and record votes ahead of state deadlines.

But now, Republican representatives are sowing distrust into this credible and standardized record system, while arguing to move toward an antiquated hand counting process. These claims are not new: in 2022, now disproven claims were made that Texas voting machines were switching your votes, and recently, disinformation about voting equipment wreaked havoc on those who work in the elections process outside San Antonio.

False Claims of Voter Fraud

Kerr County cycled through three officials in two months, tossing election duties between tax assessor and county clerk offices, the go-to options designated by the state. Normally, hand counting is done to save money in counties with less than 10,000 residents because the cost of equipment to electronically count the votes outweighs the capacity to count by hand. However in Kerr, with a population of more than 50,000 people, this simply isn’t a realistic option. If implemented, this would put an incredible strain on Kerr County’s time, resources, and workers. 

What makes this situation worse is that nobody wants to take on “an already time-consuming, stressful, and low-paying job” made “nearly impossible” by the state of elections in Texas, and in Kerr’s case, one colleague. Republican County Commissioner Rich Paces and other Republican representatives are promoting hand counting off baseless claims that the tabulators could be manipulated to produce voter fraud. 

But the very fraud that is being suggested just doesn’t happen. Per Texas Secretary of State requirements, nearly all election jurisdictions should have Hardware Diagnostic Tests, Logic and Accuracy Tests (which scan ballots), and Post-Election Audit Tests to prevent errors or manipulation. Tabulators are used by more than 90% of U.S. election jurisdictions for a reason—they are trusted for their reliability, cost-effectiveness, and speed. These systems are what make our elections secure, and they are the very systems Republicans are trying to dismantle.

What is Hand Counting? Why is it so bad?

Hand counting requires that humans instead of machines count each ballot, transcribing and checking for errors, then tallying votes. This term is misleading because it assumes that humans are reliable counters. Yet, hand counting is much more inaccurate compared to tabulators, where ballots recorded by hand are correctly recorded “only 58 percent of the time.” Imagine every day people spending hours and hours going through ballot, after ballot, after ballot: you’re human, you’d miss a couple things too.

This becomes more complicated when each county has their set of rules and processes for hand counting and for different election types, instead of a standardized, more accurate system that produces results in the 24-hour election return window Republicans themselves created. In addition, they want to use hand counting when they don’t have joint primaries, which sets up different rules for Texas voters based on their party. Republicans can incorrectly argue that hand counting curbs disenfranchisement, but the reality is this process would guarantee the threat.

Strains on Workers and Resources

If Republicans continue to disrupt elections processes, we can see real costs to county workers, budgets, and elections. In August, Mohave County witnessed such consequences. Previous measures to introduce the hand counting system are being removed this year because the county discovered “it would cost more than a million dollars and leave it with inaccurate results.” They spent three days counting 850 ballots just to make errors in 46 races.

County staff are charged with keeping our elections protected. Yet, this is usually in association with a myriad of other tasking job requirements. Tax assessor-collectors in Texas often process motor vehicle registrations, calculate property taxes and paperwork, on top of the antiquated voter registration system and conducting elections. On the other hand, county clerks handle county records including deeds, birth certificates, and marriage licenses on top of serving as chief elections officer. The role of Elections Administrator is necessary because these jobs are hard enough without the added tasks of finding space in the budget to hire more workers to hand count, and inaccurately at that.

Lastly, hand counting ballots would greatly impact county budgets. Kerr County cost “taxpayers around $250,000 due to the many changeovers.” Meanwhile, Mohave would have cost $1.1 million and required hiring hundreds of workers. These are smaller counties compared to Texas’s largest cities, which would require millions more for an inaccurate, slower, and costly change. 

What you can do to protect elections

Protect Texas elections by speaking up about keeping tabulators to your county commissioners and judges, signing up as election workers, or becoming a poll monitor. Better yet, you can support organizations like Common Cause that protect elections by mobilizing volunteers to help fellow Texans navigate the voting process and cast their votes without obstruction, confusion, or intimidation. We’ll take fast and accurate election results for less work and money, thank you.


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