Hays County voters call for paper ballots after issues with electronic election

Early voting numbers are up in Hays County. (KXAN photo)
Early voting in Hays County. (KXAN photo)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) – A group of Hays County voters are calling for paper ballots after results from a November electronic election were determined to be inaccurate.

Last year residents were set to vote on an election relating to the new Anthem subdivision near Kyle. On the ballot were five board of director positions and bond propositions worth millions of dollars. The propositions failed, but the outcome was changed by a judge in December.

According to a lawsuit, judgment shows that only two residents were qualified to vote in the election, both claim they voted in favor of the board of director positions as well as the propositions. However, the November election results showed only one of those residents voted and it was against the board of director positions and the propositions.

The changes made by the judge in December approved the board of directors and passed the district’s propositions.

“I stand behind that the election was billed properly, and was on their ballot,” said former elections administrator Joyce Cowan.

Cowan says she was there the day the two voters arrived to vote early at the Hays County Government Center. “They had a couple of questions,” she said. “They were shown exactly where Anthem issues were, which consisted of directors and the bond issues. They stated that they understood and I backed off. How they voted was their choice and I did not view any of that.”

Even though the results are changed, one Hays County resident says he’s questioning the voting equipment. “We need something that can actually record a vote that is not purely electronic,” said Matt Ocker.

Ocker says the ruling by the judge is evidence enough to make a change in how people vote.

“We have absolutely documented fact that an election result was in error in this county. The county cannot escape that,” said Ocker. “The only reason that we know that this vote did not turn out as it was supposedly cast is that we have two people that intimately know each other, who has every reason in the world to favor these bonds.”

Hays County says they looked into the problem and concluded that one voter unintentionally voted against the proposition. Cowan says the second voter may have forgot to push the “cast ballot” button. “She apparently, we’re assuming, we don’t know 100 percent, that the individual walked away and did not cast their ballots,” said Cowan.

Ocker says that’s an example on why votes should go back to paper ballots.

“I think we owe it to the voters in this county that every single person who walks into a voting booth has their vote counted and has it counted correctly, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask,” said Ocker.

Anthem Municipal Utility District issued a statement to KXAN saying they stand behind Hays County:

“Anthem Municipal Utility District does not question Hays County election officials or process.  Because Anthem MUD had only two registered voters within District boundaries, the County was forced to make special accommodations to ensure that only the two registered voters could vote on the relevant issues. The County accomplished that. However, the vote total differed from how the voters swear (in their affidavits) that they voted.  If there was error by the County it was likely due to the special accommodations made to ensure only properly qualified voters voted and this would not extend to the more general races and issues,” said Anthem Municipal Utility District attorney Andrew Barrett.

Barrett says he doesn’t believe the results were malicious and says it was likely human error. “It was unfortunate, but under no circumstance do we believe that this is fraud.”

Hays County officials add that both Anthem and the two voters were in agreement with what they asked of the visiting Judge, adding that the hearing was no longer than six minutes.

“The contention that Hays County should revert to using paper ballots because of this now-resolved issue is misguided,” the statement reads. “Hays County does not believe that the problems with the Anthem MUD items on the November 2016 ballot raise broad systemic concerns. This was an isolated problem that has now been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved.”

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