Hays County responds to additional claims of missing votes

Hays County holds elections workshop to answer concerns from residents. (KXAN photo)
Hays County holds elections workshop to answer concerns from residents. (KXAN photo)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — There are new claims in Hays County that hundreds of votes went uncounted during last November’s election.

At an Election Commission meeting, Austin resident Laura Pressley spoke during public comment making three claims of missing votes. Pressley claimed 677 mail-in ballots were missing from the canvass, 900 Election Day ballots were missing compared to the download from voting machine memory cards and a claim that 2,400 more ballots were voted in early voting in Precinct 4 than there are registered voters in Precinct 4.

The county recently received a letter from a Houston attorney stating a lawsuit could soon be pending.

“I am writing on behalf of my clients Jacob Montoya, Sean Bolock and Jeffrey Narvaiz,” attorney Jerad Najvar wrote in the letter to the county.

The letter asks the county to preserve documents and equipment related to the 2016 general election including incident reports, computer audit logs, mobile ballot box (MBB) status reports, handwritten notebooks of election staff, employee files for past elections department employees and current, and all other 2016 general election records.

“If relevant evidence is purposefully or inadvertently destroyed because of an inadequate litigation hold, my clients will pursue sanctions and other civil remedies to the extent allowed by federal and state law,” Najvar wrote.

The details of what prompted the letter is unknown, but Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson is releasing statements she says debunks claims Pressley made during public comment.

In regards to the 677 missing mail-in ballots, Anderson states those were “limited ballots.” According to Anderson, a limited ballot is available to voters who believe they are properly registered in a Texas county but have not registered, or whose names do not show up in their current county of residence.

Those ballots are counted on the same software as mailed ballots, but would not be included in the canvass as absentee because they must be counted on Election Day. “Those ballots were properly counted and valid ballots were included in the canvass,” said Anderson.

For the claim that 900 ballots were missing on Election Day, Anderson says those were provisional ballots.

“In the instance of provisionals, you’re going to get that on the audit log as a cast vote because it is a cast vote, but it won’t be counted on the canvassing because it was not accepted. Nine hundred of those were not accepted,” said Anderson.

And for the final claim of 2,400 more ballots being counted than there are registered voters in Precinct 4, Anderson says the cause was a MBB normally used for Precinct 4 had to be used in Precinct 2 due to a shortage of machines. She says the equipment was still labeled for Precinct 4.

“All votes in Precinct 2 and 4 were canvassed accurately, but there was no way for someone not familiar with the equipment location of the November election to determine that,” said Anderson in a statement.

Anderson continues by saying every vote from the November election is accounted for except the 1,816 ballots that were reported missing earlier this year.

Pressley says she will continue pushing the county for answers. According to Pressley, the numbers in audit logs she’s obtained from the county still don’t add up.

“I’m grateful that they tried to come back and reconcile the numbers but we’re not there yet,” said Pressley. “I hope they will take it seriously and go back line by line. The numbers still don’t add up.”

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