New ballot security measures add steps, time to Election Night

Local election results expected by 9 p.m. Saturday

Gladewater’s ballots are getting the maximum security treatment this Election Day.
In past years, local officials would collect, verify and tally votes before posting the results for the public. Legislation in recent years, however, created new standard operating procedures to ensure ballot fidelity – adopted by Texas lawmakers in 2021 and effected in 2022, the new regulations add more controls for transporting votes and put the public into the counting room via livestream feeds.
It makes Election Night longer and more complicated, says Gregg County Elections Administrator Jennifer Briggs, but she and her team are ready to do it right.
“It’s not real crazy,” Briggs said Thursday, with key Election Day voting set for Saturday in Gladewater, Longview, Kilgore and elsewhere. “There’s a few things in the law that kind of changed. As long as the cities and schools are going to contract with me to do their election, I’m going to follow all the laws.”
Gladewater’s smaller size means it should be the first to get word of the ‘Unofficial Results’ in its two races for city council – current council member Brandy Flanagan and candidate Jim Valentine are vying for the mayor’s seat while incumbent Gladewater Mayor Scott Owens and contender Stoney Stone are seeking the Place 3 spot. Council member Michael Webber is unchallenged in his Place 2 re-election bid, and there are also eight proposed charter amendments on the ballot for voter consideration.
“Gladewater only has around 2,600 registered voters,” Briggs noted. A bit more than 250 turned out for early voting. In Longview, state law now requires the city election must be combined with contests in Longview ISD and Spring Hill ISD: “In that group, there’s around 54,000 registered voters.”
Once polls close at 7 p.m. election officials have a variety of tasks to follow to secure the ballots for transport to Gregg County.
“I will not touch the paper ballots other than to make sure they are all collected in the ballot box / bag,” Gladewater City Clerk Judy Von Houten confirmed. “Because of the new law and the fact ballots have to be delivered over there Saturday night, I will be the one taking them, and I will have a police officer escort. I will wait there to get the unofficial results from (Briggs).”
Once ballots arrive at Gregg County Courthouse (probably about 7:45 p.m.) they’ll be taken to a secured room with a surveillance feed piped to the County Elections website.
“People can look at it at any point,” Briggs said. “If they want, they can log on at 3 a.m. and look at a dark room.
“Once those ballot bags come in and are received by Central Count, they have to be under that video surveillance. Those ballot bags have to sit in that secure room for 60 days before I can touch them again and move them into storage.”
With the fewest ballots, Gladewater will likely be counted first.
“I don’t think it’s going to take very long,” Briggs said. Granted, “We have all these tests and things we have to do: Test No. 1 is ran before we start voting. We have to finalize the election. We have to run Test No. 2. Then we tally. After the tally, we have to run Test No. 3. All of those have to prove nothing has been altered.
“I’m hoping between 8:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. we would have Gladewater done, but of course I can’t guarantee.”
Once the tests and tally are complete, Briggs will pass the unofficial results on to Von Houten. Briggs will later upload them to the elections website and announce the figures in Judge Vincent Dulweber’s courtroom.
Initially, though, “I will text the five candidates with the results,” Van Houten said, “then I will immediately drive back to City Hall and post them on the door as unofficial until we get the official tabulation.
“We canvass the election on the 15th. That’s when it will be official.”
Election Day polling at Gladewater City Hall runs 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 4 – so far, 252 residents cast ballots during Early Voting April 22-30.

Facebook Comments