WICHITA COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — If you were awake late Tuesday night wondering if you’d ever see the results from the March 1 Primary Elections, you weren’t alone.
Wichita County residents, news outlets, and candidates hoping to receive good news all anxiously awaited results for several hours following the closing of polling locations at 7 p.m.
Voting numbers were released by county officials around 10:15 p.m. on Tuesday, but they were incomplete, lacking early voting numbers. Most of Texoma went to bed Tuesday night unsure of where the elections stood.
Thankfully, we now know where the delays stemmed from.
Judge Gossom stopped by the KFDX Studio Wednesday afternoon to discuss the “unusual number of events that came together” to cause a delay in election results with Morning Anchor Carney Porter.
First and most impactful among those unusual events is the ballot confusion in the race for Justice of the Peace for Precinct 4.
An issue was discovered during early voting where some voters were not given the option to cast a vote for the Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 race even though they should have.
The issue was corrected for the second week of early voting, however anyone who cast their ballot in the first week of early voting were not given the opportunity to vote in this particular race.
Votes can be cast early, however they are not counted early. Even though a ballot may be cast weeks before Election Day, it is not counted until polling locations close on Election Day, leaving election officials with no possible way to get a head start when an issue like the one in Precinct 4 arises.
This led to a plethora of complications when it was time to count the votes when polls closed on March 1. Election officials had to run voting data from the first week of early voting before the ballots were fixed and the voting data from the second week of early voting separately.
That’s where the biggest delay started.
“Then we had to combine those figures manually,” Judge Gossom said. “And that took hours.”
Judge Gossom said election officials were working well after midnight with several election workers putting in over 30 straight hours.
Adding to the significant delay caused by the manual count of early votes were several small oversights that lead to larger delays.
New voting machines were installed at polls in Wichita County to comply with new voting laws in Texas. However, in order to receive the maximum funding from the State of Texas, Wichita County officials made the decision to fast track their installation.
Although the new voting machines did not directly cause any delays to the counting and reporting of final results, one of the first delays came from a detail that, in the rush to utilize new voting technology, likely was overlooked.
This did delay Election Day counting, but not to the degree the early voting issue in Precinct 4 did.
So, where did the confusion come from?
Historically, early voting results are released shortly after polling locations close, followed by Election Day results once all precincts have reported in. However, with the obvious delays with the early voting count, Election Day votes were counted well before early votes were counted.
“Elections are really at the service of the Democratic and Republican Party Chairs,” Gossom said. “They decided to release the voting for the day of voting.”
Results were released showing 100% of precincts reporting even though early voting numbers were not included, leading to questions and confusion across the board.
But that didn’t stop election officials from working through the night to make results available for voters.
“They really did work very hard and diligent,” Judge Gossom said. “They didn’t say, ‘I’m going home and going to bed.’ They stayed and did their job.”
Eventually, around 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, final election results were released, While those results were much later than anticipated, Judge Gossom was empathetic to their frustration.
“For the most part, voters were patient and understanding,” Gossom said. “I think most of them just wanted an explanation, and we’ve done that.”
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