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Provisional votes fail to change Liberty County outcomes

November 20, 2018

For most candidates who ran in the General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, their races were settled before midnight, and the celebrations were on.

In a few races, however, there were some candidates sitting on pins and needles while the military votes, which are received up until Nov. 16 at 5 p.m., and the provisional votes were counted. That ended on Nov. 14 and the new numbers announced on Nov. 15.

According to the district clerk, there were approximately 180 provisional ballots and a few military ballots that added to the previous totals.

Races in Tarkington ISD, the Liberty WCID Position 2, and the Hardin City Council were at risk for change. The Hardin races were less likely to have enough ballots to change their outcome and the same was true for the Liberty WCID Position 2 race with 45 votes separating Lynda Hohn and Leroy Hanel. Election day totals held for both the Hardin and Liberty races with no change in the Hardin numbers and only a one vote pickup for Hohn in her win.

The eyes of the county, however, were on the Tarkington ISD race.

Several of the precincts with provisional ballots were in the Tarkington area including one at Oak Shade Baptist Church, Rural Shade Baptist Church, and Tarkington Prairie Baptist Church polling locations.

After the final count, none of the races changed enough to overturn election day winners.

In the TISD Position 1 race, Paige Bostwick led Lane Gulledge 1,333 to 1,283 but Gulledge narrowed the gap by only two votes at the end. Donny Halton extended his lead by two more votes and defeated Ronald Shirley, II 1,685 to 929.

The closest race of all of them was between incumbent school board president Kem Kirkham Arnold and newcomer Jon Wright. Only three votes separated them and with several of the boxes being in Tarkington Prairie, the expectation for change was high, but it didn’t happen.

Only one vote was added to Arnold’s total and none to Wright’s and the school board president squeaked out a narrow win.

Commissioners are expected to canvass the results at their next meeting.

Klint Bush, the presiding judge over the early ballot board said they knew going into the provisional ballots that the potential for races to be overturned were possible and all care was taken and the law followed.

“We operate under the Texas Election Code. To get on the board, members must have their names submitted to the Liberty County commissioner’s court by the major parties in the county. The commissioners approve the nominees,” he said.

“It is just like the boards you see in Florida,” Bush pointed out, but without the controversy.

No hanging chads, just ballot approval or rejection.

“We have never had anything crazy like what is going on in Florida,” Bush said. “We’ve never found them in closets, in rental cars at the airport, none of that,” he said confidently.

Bush said the provisional ballots are kept under lock and key and are sealed. He has a police escort to prevent any fraud.

“We do that to ensure the safety and security of the ballots,” he said.

All mail-in ballots and ballots from overseas military for the county, the ballot board conducts signature verifications to make sure there is no fraud.

They look at all mail-in ballots for verification and then hand them over to the central counting official in the county clerk’s office for counting on election day.

They also handle all provisional ballots.

“If you go in to vote and have and issue like a missing driver’s license, wrong addresses, or anything that might be missing, you’re still allowed to vote, but those votes have to be verified by the ballot board,” Bush said.

The ballots are examined by the board who must decide if they comply with the law or not, and those that do not comply are rejected and signed by the Presiding Judge of the ballot board which is Klint Bush.

The committee is made up of Republicans, Democrats and Independents to assure fairness.

Bush said the panel was made up of Republicans Roy Lee (R), Ryan Daniel (R) and Emily Kebodeaux-Cook (R), Delores Moore (I) and Veronica Mallett (D). Delores Moore is also a voter registrar in the Liberty County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office, assisted in the process.

“There is no partisanship with this board,” Bush said. “We don’t know how they vote. We don’t see the ballot until we vote and decide if we’re going to accept or reject the ballot,” he said.

Bush said they go by the law as to whether they meet the criteria set up for a legal ballot.

“If they don’t meet the parameters of the law, we reject it,” he said.

Once the ballots have been accepted or rejected based on legal requirements, Bush says they open them.

“No one knows whether or not they are Republican or Democrat,” he said.

“We met to count the provisional ballots and on Nov. 19 we will finish our administrative work and the commissioner’s court will canvass the vote on Nov. 20 to complete the process for this election cycle,” he said.

Bush said there were about 20 provisional ballots that came out of the precincts in Tarkington related to the closest races in the county.

“Before we started, we all knew that it could change the outcome of the race, but, in fact, it did not,” he said.

“One ballot was added to the total number of votes by Kem (Kirkham Arnold),” Bush said.

Bush said most provisional ballots are rejected.

“If you can vote, you would vote normally,” he said, “if you’re on the roll.”

The board also has the challenge of trying to figure out intent.

“If for some reason there’s two X marks for the same race, we have to try and figure out if we can what the intent was in the vote,” he said.

Bush said it’s rare in Texas because of the type of voting machines.

The presiding judge is picked from the governor’s party. The governor is a Republican, so Bush was appointed.

To receive a mail-in ballot, the application must be signed. The ballot board compares the signature on the application with the ballot to assure no fraud has been done.

The number one reason for ballot rejection is because of failure to register on time.

“The law is clear and if you didn’t follow it, the ballot is not going to be allowed,” Bush said.

The next reason is the lack of a photo ID, also required by law.

There were 180 provisional ballots and the board only accepted approximately 40. Bush said it was normal to have such a high turn-down rate.

They did find possibly one instance of voter fraud that will be referred to the District Attorney’s office for consideration.

“They appeared on election day to vote, but their vote had already been registered,” he said. “Someone signed their name, we don’t know who,” he said.

The voter was allowed to vote provisionally until it could all be deciphered out.

“I’m not going to make a judgment on it. I’d prefer the DA do that. I’d like for every vote to count that can be. We have soldiers who have died to make sure they have the ability to vote so I want it to count if possible,” he said.

“It’s been another successful election in Liberty County.”

Commissioners are expected to canvass the results at their next meeting.

*Numbers in parenthesis are from election night.

U. S. SENATOR

R Ted Cruz 16,040 (16,013)

D Beto O’Rourke 4,420 (4,402)

L Neal M. Dikeman 114 (113)

U. S. REP. DISTRICT 36

R Brian Babin 16,108 (16,080)

D Dayna Steele 4,300 (4,282)

GOVERNOR

R Greg Abbott 16,526 (16,497)

D Lupe Valdez 3,815 (3,798)

L Mark Jay Tippetts 203 (202)

LT. GOVERNOR

R Dan Patrick 15,844 (15,815)

D Mike Collier 4,350 (4,333)

L Kerr Douglas McKennon 320 (318)

ATTORNEY GENERAL

R Ken Paxton 15,596 (15,568)

D Justin Nelson 4,455 (4,438)

L Michael Ray Harris 384 (381)

COMPTROLLER OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS

R Glenn Hegar 15,728 (15,698)

D Joi Chevalier 3,984 (3,968)

L Ben Sanders 524 (522)

COMMISSIONER GENERAL LAND OFFICE

R George P. Bush 15,561 (15,531)

D Miguel Suazo 4,084 (4,067)

L Matt Pina 683 (682)

COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE

R Sid Miller 15,520 (15,492)

D Kim Olson 4,419 (4,402)

L Richard Carpenter 351 (348)

RAILROAD COMMISSIONER

R Christi Craddick 15,721 (15,693)

D Roman McAllen 4,059 (4,042)

L Mike Wright (469)

STATE SENATOR, DISTRICT 3

R Robert Nichols 15,795 (15,764)

D Shirley Layton 4,231 (4,216)

L Bruce Quarles 257 (255)

STATE REPRESENTATIVE, DISTRICT 18

R Ernest Bailes 15,999 (15,971)

D Fred Lemond 4,384 (4,364)

DISTRICT JUDGE, 75th DISTRICT

R Mark Morefield 16,724 (16,688)

DISTRICT JUDGE, 253rd DISTRICT

Chap Cain 16,828 (16,793)

COUNTY JUDGE

R Jay Knight 16,815 (16,781)

JUDGE, COUNTY COURT-AT-LAW

R Tommy Chambers 16,771 (16,735)

DISTRICT CLERK

R Delia Sellers 16,918 (16,883)

COUNTY CLERK

R Lee Haidusek Chambers 15,740 (15,710)

D Joe Robertson, Jr. 4,480 (4,465)

COUNTY TREASURER

R Kim Harris 16,825 (16,789)

COUNTY SURVEYOR

R John C. ‘Johnny’ Moorman 16,689 (16,653)

COUNTY COMMISSIONER, PCT. 2

R Greg Arthur 5,179 (5,167)

COUNTY COMMISSIONER, PCT. 4

R Leon Wilson 4,301 (4,294)

JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, PCT. 1

R Stephen Hebert 2,469 (2,464)

JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, PCT. 2

D Ronnie Davis 705 (703)

JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, PCT. 3

R Cody Parrish 2,002 (1,995)

JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, PCT. 4

R Larry Wilburn 5,739 (5,730)

JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, PCT. 5

R Wade Brown 3,023 (3,022)

JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, PCT. 6

R Ralph Fuller 2,511 (2,505)

D Monique McDuffie-Brooks 1,139 (1,131)

HARDIN CITY COUNCIL POS. 3

Rachael Smart 160 (160)

Robert LeJeune 66 (66)

HARDIN CITY COUNCIL POS. 5

Heather L. West-Seward 79 (79)

Harvey Finley 160 (160)

TARKINGTON TRUSTEE POS. 1

Paige Bostwick 1,333 (1,333)

Lane Gulledge 1,285 (1,283)

TARKINGTON TRUSTEE POS. 2

Donny Haltom 1,685 (1,683)

Ronald Shirley, II 929 (929)

TARKINGTON TRUSTEE POS. 3

Jon Wright 1,312 (1,312)

Kem Kirkham Arnold 1,316 (1,315)

LIBERTY WCID POS. 1

Leonard L. Vyoral 224 (223)

LIBERTY WCID POS. 2

Lynda Hohn 158 (157)

Leroy Hanel 113 (113)

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