Scoop from @NataliaECG, @VotebeatUS's Texas reporter: A group of right wing activists in Tarrant County, Texas have descended on the county elections office for days to count the March 2020 primary race all over again because of unspecified "fraud." https://t.co/oWgBQjR3YQ— Jessica Huseman (@JessicaHuseman) July 23, 2022
Charles Wedemeyer, another volunteer for the group, said he believes there’s a lot of unnecessary secrecy in the county’s elections.
“The act of voting is secret, but that’s it. The rest of it is public,” Wedemeyer said. “The citizens own this deal. But we had to wait 22 months to do this. It’s important for the records to be secure and protected but it’s not secret. The ballots should be available within five days.”
On Friday, upon seeing a photographer beginning to take photos for this article, the volunteers stopped what they were doing and walked out of the room.
Garcia, who’s led the office since 2018, said this is the first time he’s received a request of this scope: a large group of people seeking to physically review thousands of paper ballots.
But making that happen required massive time and resources from his office, which must keep staff members in the room with the ballots at all times.
“A lot of people in this office have had to learn to shuffle priorities,” Garcia said. The office’s elections staff includes the administrator, the assistant administrator, the voter registration manager, the elections manager and the operations manager. “We’re monitoring this process, we’re helping them, we’re answering questions, calls, and everything they need. But our people are also trying to register voters and we’re also trying to fulfill other information requests we have.”The people who “own” this are not any one person. Besides, there are laws for a reason:
The group first asked to inspect the March 2020 primary ballots last fall. But the Texas Election Code requires voted ballots to be retained in their original ballot box for 60 days after Election Day. On the 61st day, the “election custodian” may transfer those voted ballots to another secure container, where they must be kept for a 22-month preservation period. Anyone who wants to inspect the voted ballots must wait until after the 22 months, when they become subject to public records requests.
With the request pending and the clock ticking, the Tarrant County elections office had to set a plan, a policy, and procedures to have such a large group of people in the office for days on end while simultaneously ensuring the ballots’ security and continuing other work, Garcia said.
He drafted a policy for inspecting sensitive documents in person earlier this month.
It prohibits writing or marking instruments. All interaction with the documents by non-elections personnel is subject to video and in-person monitoring. Electronic devices with ethernet ports are not allowed in the inspection area; laptops, tablets, cellphones, and other electronic devices that do not have ethernet ports may be brought into the inspection area; among other guidelines.
”Public records” doesn’t mean your private possessions anymore than “public library” means those are your books.
And my sympathies are with the people who have to deal with this crap as well as do their day jobs.
A Tarrant County elections administration worker must be present in the room with the group at all times to answer any questions and to monitor the review of the documents.Those employees have better things to do.
Mei Wang, a volunteer with the Tarrant County Citizens for Election Integrity, told Votebeat Friday the group isn’t trying to keep anyone away from the polls.
“We want people to vote, we need people to come vote, and we can audit,” said Wang, who told Votebeat she has an accounting and auditing background. “We want audits to be done more regularly, quarterly, and we want to correct this problem.”
In Texas all counties are required to audit their results by doing a partial manual count for every election, in 1% of precincts or three precincts. Tarrant County did a manual count in 2020 as part of its audit for the Senate race the group is inspecting, Garcia said.
What problem? The one that doesn’t exist? The problem you will never find? These people are checking the paper in the light, probably for evidence of bamboo. They leave the room when cameras come out? They don’t explain what they are doing or looking for. This is transparency? And who appointed these clowns to represent we the people? 🤡