Updated: Tarrant County still has 15,000 more mail-in ballots to count, expects to be done by Friday

Several Tarrant County races have yet to be called as election officials continue to count mail-in ballots and sort through defective ones. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
Several Tarrant County races have yet to be called as election officials continue to count mail-in ballots and sort through defective ones. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)

Several Tarrant County races have yet to be called as election officials continue to count mail-in ballots and sort through defective ones. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)

Updated at 4:20 p.m. Nov. 5:

A social media post by the Tarrant County Elections Administration announced that all absentee ballots are expected to be counted by the end of the day on Nov. 6.

The department has verified more than 13,000 defective ballots and has more than 15,000 absentee ballots still to be processed, according to elections officials.

Original:

Tarrant County voters will have to wait for all absentee ballots to be counted by the elections administration before learning final election results, according to a district court order.

Under state law, election results must be submitted within 24 hours of the polls closing. That means that all ballots should have been tallied by 7 p.m. Nov. 4. But because of difficulties counting this year's mail-in ballots, Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia filed notice in district court Nov. 4 seeking more time.

State District Judge John Chupp heard testimony and granted Garcia's office an extension, stating that "the time limitation [in the state election code] does not apply to the processing of mail ballots because mail ballots are not precinct election records."

The judge's order allows Tarrant County to continue counting ballots regardless of how long it takes, as long as all ballots are counted.

After the polls closed Nov. 3, the Tarrant County Elections Office released a statement that 11,000 mail-in ballots were deemed defective and would have to be replicated manually, a tedious process that was delaying the final elections results.

As of 7 p.m. Nov. 4, the county had counted only 6,633 of those replicated and verified ballots. These ballots were verified by the Tarrant County Ballot Board, which includes members of the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties.



An additional 3,681 ballots have been duplicated and are in the process of being verified, according to the county. Another update to election results is expected once those have been posted.

"Work will continue throughout the night, until all ballots are processed, defectives are identified and all duplications necessary are created and counted," the elections office posted on Twitter.

Documents show Tarrant County mailed out 89,305 ballots for the Nov. 3 election, and 70,694 were returned. It was unclear as of Nov. 5 how many of these ballots have yet to be counted.

Tarrant County saw historical turnout during early voting, surpassing election numbers in 2016 for in-person and absentee voting. Because so many voted early and by mail, turnout on Election Day was lower than in years past.

Records show 666,582 people voted early in person in Tarrant County, and when that figure is combined with mail-in ballots received as of Oct. 30, the county posted early voting turnout of 60.17%. That compares with 47.14% early voting turnout in 2016.

A higher number of people also registered to vote this year, as well. The county had 1,212,524 registered voters for this election versus 1,077,598 registered voters in 2016, according to the Texas Secretary of State's Office.

On Election Day, 101,458 ballots were cast in person across Tarrant County.

“We all played up early voting pretty heavily,” Tarrant County GOP Chair Rick Barnes said. “We had a three-week process this time instead of only two weeks. This was an important election to lots of people, and they got out and voted, so we’re very happy about the turnout.”
Libertarian Party Chair Donavan Pantke said he has been working with Tarrant County officials to help get votes counted.

"I have full confidence that the tri-partisan team we have working will get the election results in a timely fashion while maintaining absolute transparency and integrity in the process," he said.

The delay in Tarrant County election results has prevented some winners from being called in local races because the tallies are still too close to call. Tarrant County voters' preference in the presidential race is also close, with President Donald Trump leading by less than 200 votes over former Vice President Joe Biden.

State law allows mail-in ballots in counties with populations over 100,000 to be counted after the polls close on the last day of in-person early voting, which was Oct. 30 this year. But Tarrant County officials ran into problems when its election scanners rejected the barcodes on thousands of mail-in ballots.

Election results are unofficial until they are canvassed and certified by the county clerk. Under Texas election law, the clerk accepts and counts mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by Nov. 4, if they were sent from inside the U.S., or Nov. 9, if they were sent from outside the U.S.

Visit communityimpact.com/voter-guide/election-results to see results from all local elections in your community.
By Sandra Sadek
Sandra Sadek covers the cities of Grapevine, Southlake and Roanoke as well as Carroll ISD for Community Impact. She graduated from Texas State University where she majored in journalism and international relations. She has experience working for several local papers including the University Star, the Katy Times, and the Fort Stockton Pioneer. When she's not on the ground reporting, she enjoys a good book and a hot drink. Follow her on social media @ssadek19.


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