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Local Government

Dallas County’s Super Tuesday Was Messy

Some election workers didn't show. The machines didn't always work. Lines at a few polling places were hours long. And a partial recount was approved on Tuesday.
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Voters lined up to vote on Super Tuesday at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library in downtown Dallas. (Photo by Cecilia Lenzen)

On Super Tuesday, nearly 320,000 Dallasites cast their votes in the primaries. Many of those voted without incident. But some didn’t. If this is a run-through for November, the county has a lot of work to do. At some polling locations, election workers simply didn’t show up. At others, the machines were broken. As the clock ticked near 7 p.m., lines—like at the Oak Lawn branch library—snaked past two hours. And late Friday, the county asked for permission to recount the ballots. Election administrator Toni Pippins-Poole said 44 tabulating machines weren’t counted; her office found the flash drives.

On Tuesday, as Shawn reported, a judge approved the recount. They believe they’ll need to cross reference between 7,000 and 8,000 ballots and do not believe that this will change the outcome of any of the races. Both parties basically stood pat until the ruling came. Rodney Anderson, the Republican party chair for the county, told the Texas Tribune, “We anxiously await the explanation from the election department on how this could possibly happen. Until such time when we have this, I’m not going to deal in supposition and what ifs.” On Tuesday, they fired shots at one another from the hallway of the courthouse.

We didn’t know which of the 454 polling locations were affected until Tuesday. But the new machines—which printed out a ballot with a unique barcode for each voter after the selections were entered digitally—weren’t exactly smooth. I voted the Friday before Super Tuesday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center. After I got my ballot, I tried to feed it into another machine for tabulation. The machine wasn’t working. We slid our ballots into a locked bin instead, and the judge told us they would be counted later. She told us this situation is why there was a paper trail and reiterated that in court on Tuesday.

On Election Day, you found similar reports at Booker T. High School. The machines were broken at North Dallas High School and the Lochwood branch library. (None of those locations were on the recount list.) Last Wednesday, County Judge Clay Jenkins assured the public that these issues would be fixed by November. I hope so.

But there are things that cannot be fixed. Remember the long lines that I mentioned up top? They were longer in Houston, where voters waited almost seven hours at Texas Southern University. That an HBCU in the state’s largest city also had some of the longest wait times is a symptom of a system that was designed to make it more difficult for people of color to vote. That’s not me editorializing: the Texas Observer ran down all the ways the state has needled at the Voting Rights Act since 2013, when the Supreme Court freed states from getting federal approval before tinkering with any voting laws.

Since: there’s been a voter ID law, the state has tried to block the ability to register to vote online, the Legislature tried to pass a bill to concentrate polling places near neighborhoods of highest population—those numbers favor white communities. And, according to the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, Texas has closed 750 polling places, more than any other state in the country. Dallas County has 74 fewer than it did in 2013. Travis County has 67 fewer. Harris County is down 52.

Those long lines were policy in action. We should at least fix our voting technology as to not make it even harder for people to cast their ballot.

This story originally ran in D Brief, D Magazine’s weekly newsletter. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox every week. 

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