Two elections were left off the ballot for at least 72 voters in Huntington during the first day of early voting.
Huntington ISD Superintendent David Flowers said a couple came to the district's administration office to report that the school board election and bond issue election were not on their ballot Tuesday morning.
"It just seemed odd," Flowers said. "He said, 'It happened to both my wife and I, and we weren't even voting near each other.' That sent a red flag up."
Minutes later, a family member of someone in their admin office called and said the bond was not on his ballot. He told them he would not leave the voting area until he was allowed to vote on these elections, but that took more than an hour to rectify, Flowers said.
"The sad thing is, the gentleman that came and told us earlier said he mentioned something about it and was essentially, not brushed off, but was told there was nothing they could do," he said.
That's when he decided to get involved. He called Elections Administrator Elizabeth Hawkins and the district's bond counsel, Rose Kanusky with MPH Legal, to see what could be done.
Hawkins told The Lufkin Daily News that 72 voters were impacted in Precinct 11B and that no other election was impacted. She said the issue stemmed from the "tablet not assigning the voter the correct ballot style."
"Thankfully it was caught early and has been corrected," Hawkins said. "We will be manually pulling up the voters ballot style from the expressvote machine that live in voting precinct 11B. Unfortunately nothing can be done with the 72 voters that have already came through, but again this has been resolved and moving forward."
Kanusky sent Flowers the following email about the situation:
"Huntington ISD contracted with Angelina County for a 'joint election,' which would allow its voters to vote for all races on one ballot. It has come to our attention that voters from precinct 11B received a ballot without the district’s elections on it. Therefore, some people did not have an opportunity to vote in the district’s elections.
"According to the Texas Secretary of State, once a ballot is cast in a joint election, there is no authority under Texas law to allow a voter to cast another ballot even if, as in this case, some people did not have an opportunity to vote in the district’s elections."
Another election would then not be held, and those ballots cannot be recast or modified.
"It's disappointing," Flowers said. "We're talking about 72 people, and it could be more. That's just what they're saying. I'm disappointed if it's one. These are people that showed up to vote today and didn't work who weren't able to vote for the bond and the school board."
Votes matter in every election, but they are hugely important for local elections, he said.
Flowers sent out this email to Huntington ISD staff and families during the midst of the issue Tuesday morning:
"It has come to my attention there are issues with some ballots today. Some of the ballots do not have the school board and bond information on them. If you vote today, ask for a provisional ballot with the school measures on them. I have contacted the Elections Administrator for the county and she is researching the problem."
Kanusky said that this is something that has happened to counties across Texas over time; it is not a common issue, but it does happen. While nothing can be done to rectify the situation once a ballot is cast because of Texas law, voters absolutely have the right to question their ballots if they think something is missing, she said.
"My advice to voters is, if you think something is missing from your ballot, don't cast it until you get an election official to explain the situation to you," Kanusky said. "The concern here is that some people may not have known that they were entitled to vote on the school district ballot."
Kanusky is an election official in her county, and she said every polling place in Texas is required to post the number for the Secretary of State, and every voter is allowed to ask for clarification or information if they think something is wrong with their ballot.
"Voters are absolutely entitled to question their ballots," Kanusky said. "Part of what I try to do as an election official is to point that out to voters so they know they have certain rights."