As Super Tuesday came to a close, some Bell County voters were left wondering whether their vote really did count.
Voters and precinct judges across Bell County reported ballot shortages and hourlong waits at the polls Tuesday. Both Republican and Democratic voters were affected by the ballot blunder.
“I’ve been here for a little over an hour and about 15 to 20 people are standing outside and another 10 are waiting inside for Democratic ballots to come, if they ever come,” said Richard Enos, 41, of Killeen, at about 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The significance of this election, Enos said, was what kept him waiting in line.
“All the elections are important, but this one is a big one — this is the presidential primary,” he said.
As polls neared closing time, some precincts were forced to take emergency measures per Texas Secretary of State instruction, relying upon photocopied ballots and blank sheets of paper to cast votes.
One Democratic voter said she had never experienced a Super Tuesday like this one in Bell County.
“I’ve never seen or heard of such a thing before,” Killeen resident Debbie Siegle told the Herald. “I didn’t know that was even possible. I didn’t know you could even vote on a piece of notebook paper.”
The whole experience left Siegle a little uneasy, she said, wondering “Is my vote going to be my vote or their vote?”
Yulinda Dias, Precinct 106 judge, said she kept a list of phone numbers and names of people who left, unable to vote because of the shortage. Less than an hour before the polls closed, Dias called voters to let them know ballots had finally arrived.
“We were out of ballots for two hours,” Dias said. “We just ran out of ballots. I have no idea why it took so long. I have a whole list of people to call now.”
According to preliminary reports, at least nine precincts experienced ballot shortages and significant voting delays on Super Tuesday.
Bell County elections administrator Shawn Snyder said Tuesday’s record turnout was the cause of the widespread ballot deficit.
“We just had higher than expected voter turnout,” Snyder said.
The ballot shortage was not for a lack of trying, according to Snyder, who said he ordered 25 percent more ballots than usual for this primary election.
The ballot situation, he said, may have been different if Bell County had used electronic ballots.
Bell County Republican chairwoman Nancy Boston said she received calls from voters in multiple precincts across the county about a lack of ballots during voting hours Tuesday.
“It’s so unfortunate. I just think every voter needs to be assured his or her vote is counted,” Boston said.
Though she did not have an exact number of ballots requested by the Bell County Republican Party, Boston did say they requested more than what is required by the Texas Secretary of State.
“It’s just one of those elections where people had not anticipated the turnout,” she said.
Boston said she was assured that all voters who remained in line at a polling location would be able to cast a vote, and that vote would be counted.
The issues faced by voters Tuesday will potentially lead to more conversations about how the county can improve its voting system, Boston said.
“We need to streamline the voting process if we can,” she said.
Bell County Democratic Chair Chris Rosenberg called for a change in Bell County’s Election Day process.“It’s time for Bell County to update its election equipment,” Rosenberg told the Herald. “It shouldn’t be hard for people to vote. People should have access to easy-to-find polling locations and up-to-date equipment that absolutely ensures beyond all doubt that their vote will count and their voices will be heard.”
Super Tuesday quickly turned into a super late evening Tuesday night as election officials across the county were forced to count all “emergency” ballots by hand because of the ballot shortage.
Louie Minor, an alternate judge for Bell County Precincts 103 and 113, said the ballot “debacle” Tuesday is reason enough for county officials to take another look at their current election processes.
“That’s why the county needs to get rid of this archaic system that we have and invest the money to update our voting systems,” Minor said. “This was a debacle. The elections administrator should bear full responsibility.”
“If it were electronic ballots, they would be counted faster,” he said. “All of the counties around us have them. ... I don’t know why we stick to these old ways when we are in the digital generation.”
The Rev. William Campbell, Anderson Chapel AME Church pastor, stopped by the Marlboro Heights Baptist Church polling location Tuesday but said the overall mood — despite long lines — was a positive one.
“I saw an adamant resolve across racial and party lines: Hispanic, Caucasian, African-American people wanted to exercise their right to vote,” Campbell said. “People are concerned about their country and people want to participate in the process. It is very positive, I think.”
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