EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Voters in El Paso (and the rest of Texas) across all parties are uniting over shared frustrations experienced at the polls.
On Super Tuesday, many voters in El Paso faced delays and complications while trying to cast their vote.
Corinna Ponce waited an hour to vote at Pebble Hills High School and noticed something askew.
The line to submit ballots was not moving.
“When I was in line to finally submit my ballot, I saw that voters in front of me were not able to submit their ballots,” Ponce tells KTSM.
The machine did not accept the ballots and gave an “error” message.
Voters who were unable to submit their ballots were moved out of line and directed to a polling official.
“People became frustrated after spending over an hour and had to leave,” Ponce said, “and asked the lady supervising if they could leave their ballots with her. The lady said ‘no and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do in this case’.”
Voters at other voting locations also experienced technical difficulties, such as error messages erroneously reporting the person had already voted.
Some machines were nonfunctional and poll officials were unequipped to alleviate voters’ stress.
“Machines down since 7:10 am at Precinct 74 so we weren’t able to vote. County elections aware but no ETA,” wrote voter Judy Gutierrez on Facebook.
According to the El Paso County Elections Department, poll workers are provided training ahead of voting to mitigate potential conflicts.
Online trainings are available that consist of four sections: a 106-slide presentation; an eight-minute Electronic Poll Pad instructional video; a 20-minute Express Vote Machine demonstration; and a resource section that features an updated Electronic Poll Pad training guide, information on voter identification procedures, a handbook for qualifying voters on Election Day, a poll watcher’s guide, the Attorney General of Texas’ Constitutional Oath, and a guide from the Texas Secretary of State on providing identification for voting in Texas.
Training receipts are available via a Google Form that does not require having taken or completing the training.
Whether poll workers undergo in-person training is not clear.
“As of right now we do not have any poll worker ‘hands-on’ trainings scheduled as we just finished the Primary Election this past Tuesday,” Melissa Rosales, Elections Information and Resources Coordinator at the El Paso County Elections Department tells KTSM.
“Our department will decide within the next couple of weeks if we will offer any May Primary Runoff poll worker trainings.”
The Elections Department cannot discuss future trainings at this time, as plans are still in development.
The state of Texas uses three methods to vote: paper ballots that voters cast by hand using an indelible marker, optical scan voting systems that allow viewers to cast their votes by filling in bubbles next to a candidate’s name, and through Direct Record Electronic systems that allow voters to cast their votes directly into the machine.
People in other parts of Texas also had trouble practicing their civic duties. Voters in Harris County in Houston spent up to seven hours in line.
The Harris County Clerk’s Office website confused voters on Tuesday by directing to voting locations that were reported to have a minimal wait time, which was not true.
An equal number of voting machines for each party were setup at voting centers, despite Democratic voters outnumbering Republicans. Democrats were forced to wait hours in line because the polling stations could not accommodate the volume of voters.
The Texas Secretary of State’s website offers voting machine tutorials for voters but has limited information regarding wait time, how to address technical issues at the polls, or other problems encountered by voters.
“When voting in the Lone Star State, you count. Texas makes sure,” the website says.
But a law firm in El Paso is not so sure. The Enrique Garcia Law Firm submitted a request for an internal audit to be conducted due to the County’s new voting machines having been compromised in other areas of the country.
Garcia worries that the new machines are susceptible to programming manipulation on the back-end. Moreover, the new machines do not provide ballot receipts to voters like past machines.
KTSM reached out to the El Paso County Elections Department who said “there is no way to track a ballot to a voter.”
Garcia’s concern is that a lack of transparency could be indicative of manipulations to the machines’ programming.
“We want to make sure a forensic expert conducts an audit every time because it’s very scary to think it doesn’t matter what the people of El Paso want, it’s what the people running the machines want,” Garcia tells KTSM.
Garcia hand-delivered the petition to the El Paso County Elections Department on Wednesday where a representative informed him that complaints must be filed with the Texas Secretary of State.
“This is not a partisan movement, it’s everybody here in El Paso. We’re human, we’re American and we want to make sure our processes are secure and fair,” says Garcia.
“We want a true opportunity for the people of El Paso to elect the people they want to represent them.”