Mac Walker, whose legal name is Lee Macerlaen Walker, is running for the school board's District 7 seat. In paperwork submitted to the district Aug. 16, Walker said he signified for his name to appear as "Mac Walker" on the ballot, a name he said he has been campaigning under since filing to run. However, due to an HISD error inputting his name into the Harris County Election's Administrator's Office Entity Portal, his name will appear as "Lee Walker" on ballots instead.
"HISD acknowledges and takes responsibility for the error in inputting Mr. Walker's name into the Harris County Elections Administrator's Office Entity Portal," HISD said in a statement.
HISD said it contacted Harris County on Oct. 4, as soon as they were made aware of the error, and also reached out to the Texas Secretary of State's Office.
"It is our understanding from Harris County that the ballot cannot be corrected at this time," HISD officials said. "Mr. Walker's legal name will appear on the ballot. Corrective actions and systems in the Office of Board Services have been put into place to ensure that this does not happen again."
While the error appears to be an honest mistake, Walker—who said he has gone by Mac since the day he was born—said he has been frustrated with the process of trying to get things fixed, which he said was filled with delays and confusion over what he was supposed to do to rectify the issue.
In an email provided to Community Impact Newspaper, Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria told Walker changing the ballot language would require new logic and accuracy tests for the entire election, a process she said would be impossible to complete in time for early voting.
Nadia Hakim, deputy director of communications and voter outreach for the Harris County Election Administrator's Office, said the logic and accuracy tests were completed around the end of September. In order to accommodate a request to change a ballot, the request would ideally have been made around mid-September, she said.
Walker said he has already encountered several voters on the campaign trail who were skeptical about the difference between his name and the name on the ballot, including a person who asked him if he really was who he said he was.
"I didn’t know how to even respond to that," Walker said. "It’s just not good for our society to have this much distrust when it could’ve been fixed early on."
The most recent race for HISD's District 7 took place in November 2017, and the margin between the two candidates running was about 2,700 votes. However, some recent elections have been much closer, including a December 2016 runoff for the District 7 seat that was decided by only 37 votes.
Walker is running against three other candidates for District 7, including Dwight Jefferson, Bridget Wade and incumbent Anne Sung.
Walker said he has inquired about having signage available at polling places to let voters know about the error, but Hakim said, per the Texas Secretary of State, Harris County is unable to post such notices, which she said can be construed as electioneering.
HISD said election notices published on the district's website, in the Houston Chronicle and on the district's bulletin board will include both Walker's preferred name and his legal name. HISD will also mail the notice to registered voters in the five districts up for election on Nov. 2.
In the meantime, Walker said he will continue to try to get the word out, adding that he does not have plans to pursue any legal action at this point in time.
"I have donors and people who are strongly encouraging me to fight this in courts," he said. "I got into this race because I wanted to help HISD. I don’t want to become a flash point for mismanaged elections."
Early voting for HISD elections begins Oct. 18. Election Day is Nov. 2.