Early voters in Texas are claiming that their straight-ticket ballots were flipped to the other party in key midterm races.
At least 80 counties in the state reportedly had voting machines switch ballot choices in races across the state including the one between incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and his Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke, the Houston Chronicle reported.
A spokesman for the office of Secretary of State Rolando Pablos indicated that the problem was not with Hart eSlate voting machines, but with voters themselves.
“The Hart eSlate machines are not malfunctioning, the problems being reported are a result of user error — usually voters hitting a button or using the selection wheel before the screen is finished rendering,” Sam Taylor said.
Democratic voters originally choosing O’Rourke claimed the machines showed they were about to cast a vote for Cruz.
“I hit straight Democratic ticket,” Mickey Blake, a Houston resident, told KTRK-TV. “It’s all Democratic except for Ted Cruz was checked.”
“I tried it a third time and the same thing happened,” she added.
Cordell Hosea in Fort Bend County experienced the same problem when trying to vote a straight-Democrat ticket.
“When I got to the end, I just so happened that I glanced at the screen, I saw Ted Cruz was selected as my senator,” Hosea told KTRK.
Democrat voters were not the only ones experiencing the alleged malfunction.
“We’ve heard from voters over a number of elections about this,” Ft. Bend County Election Administrator John Oldham said.
“It’s not a glitch, it’s a user-induced problem that comes from the type of system that we have,” he said. “I think both sides could be equally hurt.”
According to the Houston Chronicle:
A spokesman for the Texas Civil Rights Project said the group has received about a half dozen complaints, mostly of Democratic straight ticket voters whose ballots erroneously included a vote for Cruz, and one Republican straight ticket voter whose ballot tabulated a vote for O’Rourke.
The problem occurs on the Hart eSlate voting machine when voters turn a selection dial and hit the “enter” button simultaneously, according to the state.
Out of the 254 counties in Texas, 82 of them have the machines in question. But upgrading the machines in Harris, Dallas and Tarrant Counties alone would cost about $50 million, according to Taylor.
“It wouldn’t even put a dent” in the cost of upgrading machines across the Lone Star state, he added.
“This is not an isolated issue but a symptom of a wider breakdown in Texas’s election systems,” Beth Stevens, the Civil Rights Project’s voting rights director, said. “Texas voters should have full confidence that when they use a voting machine they are indeed casting their ballot of choice.”
Hart InterVCivic, the machine’s manufacturer, defended its product while noting the 16-year-old technology.
“The same story has happened in multiple elections,” Steven Sockwell, the company’s vice president of marketing, said, according to Fox News. “There was no flipping then and there’s not any now.”
Cruz noted “multiple reports” of vote changing in a statement to supporters.
“Once you select the Republican party ticket, please be patient and do not select ‘next’ until the ballot has populated all of the selections,” the statement read.
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