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2022 ballot shortage in Texas county far exceeded estimate, Georgia county gets $2M in Zuckbucks

Harris County, Texas, allegedly had ballot paper shortages at 121 voting centers in 2022, a number much higher than the county's original estimate.

Published: February 3, 2023 8:13pm

Updated: February 5, 2023 11:16pm

In Texas, a new report about the extent of ballot paper shortages in Harris County in the 2022 general election has led Gov. Greg Abbott to consider new elections, and in Georgia, DeKalb County has announced it is accepting $2 million in private funding sourced to an election nonprofit accused of allocating $350 million in private funds to public elections offices to sway the 2020 presidential election in favor of Joe Biden.

A new analysis of election equipment and voter turnout records conducted by a Houston news outlet found that the ballot paper shortage in Harris County, Texas, on Election Day 2022 was more widespread than the Elections Administration Office had acknowledged. 

"After reviewing help desk logs and calling presiding and alternate election judges, the county estimated 46 to 68 voting centers ran out of their initial allotment of paper," according to KHOU 11. However, comparing ballot paper packets distributed to the total number of votes cast, KHOU 11 "discovered 121 voting centers did not initially receive enough ballot paper to cover voter turnout," the outlet reported. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) tweeted about the new analysis Tuesday. "Harris Co. election ballot paper shortage far bigger than initially estimated," Abbot wrote. "It's so big it may have altered the outcome of elections. It may necessitate new elections. It WILL necessitate new LAWS that prevent Harris Co. from ever doing this again."

While the county Elections Administration Office told KHOU 11 that historical data was used for determining ballot supply needs for voting locations, the news outlet found that 52 voting centers received less ballot paper in 2022 than the number of ballots cast in 2018. 

Election Administrator Clifford Tatum had told county commissioners that supplemental paper supplies were sent by his office throughout Election Day. When KHOU 11 asked Tatum where the supplies were sent, he didn't provide any details. 

Inspectors from the Texas Secretary of State and Attorney General's Election Integrity Team were sent to Harris County during the general election last year to observe and monitor voting processes. Numerous voting irregularities were reported following the 2020 general and 2022 March primary elections and were also found after the state began auditing Harris County's 2020 election procedures. The county's former election administrator resigned last March after 10,000 ballots hadn't been counted in the primary election within the time frame established by law.

In Georgia, meanwhile, the DeKalb County Board of Voter Registration & Elections has accepted $2 million in private money from a nonprofit linked to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. 

The county was awarded the grant under the Centers for Election Excellence program of the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, which is a project of the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). CTCL poured nearly $350 million into local elections offices managing the 2020 election, with most of the funds donated to the nonprofit by Zuckerberg. 

CTCL has claimed its 2020 election grants — colloquially known as "Zuckerbucks" — were allocated without partisan preference to make voting safer amid the pandemic. Critics of the unprecedented level of private funding injected into election administration offices argue the grants were awarded disproportionately to boost voter participation in swing state Democratic strongholds. A House Republican investigation found that less than 1% of the funds were spent on personal protective equipment. 

Chair of the DeKalb County Board of Registration & Elections, Dele Lowman Smith, said in a statement: "My vision as Chair has been for DeKalb County to become a pacesetter for elections in the Southeast, so earning the Center for Elections Excellence designation is particularly gratifying. What is even more exciting is how the resources and collaboration that come with this will enable us to keep innovating for the benefit of DeKalb voters."

DeKalb County's acceptance of the funds comes after an elections official in Michigan turned aside an offer of private funding from the same source. Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck on Tuesday declined a $1.5 million grant from the controversial nonprofit due to concerns over private money with possible political connections being used "to fund election operations."

The Georgia Secretary of State's office opened an investigation into DeKalb County in November 2021 over its handling of drop box ballots in the 2020 election following a media report that there were problems with chain of custody documentation. A hand recount in DeKalb County last year found that a machine tabulator counted over a thousand ballots more than actually existed in the May primary, causing then-Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) to send a letter requesting that the chair of the Board of Registration & Elections explain and resolve the issue before the 2022 general election.

Questions surrounding provisional ballot discrepancies and unregistered voters in Arizona's Pima County arose in the days following the November 2022 elections, revealed internal emails of county election officials obtained through a public records request from America First Legal Foundation. 

On Thursday, Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cazares-Kelly responded to a request for comment originally sent in December. The discrepancy in provisional ballot totals compiled by her office and the Elections Department were the result of "voters who were not registered to vote in Pima County or who needed to be manually matched," she explained.

"Provisional ballots are hand processed by batch, according to the precinct and a final count could only be done after reviewing and entering each form," she noted. "Sometimes spoiled provisional ballots or blank forms are included, which impacts the count. The final numbers from the canvass accounted for all provisional ballots."

County Elections Director Constance Hargrove told Just the News in a statement, "The office does recognize that the provisional ballot process can be confusing and plans to provide targeted training and instructions to prevent problems in the future."

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