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Election issues lead to Denton County shakeup

Election issues lead to Denton County shakeup

November 30
19:18 2016

There has been a shakeup at the Denton County Elections Administration following a series of glitches and issues counting votes on Election Day.

Three election officials departed the administration. Lannie Noble, the former elections administrator who oversees Denton County voting, resigned Nov. 16. The former elections administrator for Tarrant County, Frank Phillips, was chosen this past Wednesday to replace Noble, who’s last day as elections administrator was this Monday.

“The election commission can’t tell them [employees] how to do their job, but they can come in and say they aren’t happy with something, and ultimately fire them if deemed necessary,” Denton County Judge Mary Horn said. “As soon as Lannie heard I called a meeting, I think he saw the hand on the wall, and decided this would probably be a good time to retire.”

Although there was a record-setting turnout of voters throughout this year’s election, election officials noticed there were still problems counting the votes. Ultimately, some ballots were counted three times, however, officials said results were not affected.

During early voting, there were signs posted at polling sites that allegedly mislead voters into bringing the wrong forms of identification to vote. On Election Day, polls at some sites were in “test mode,” and voters were left to fill out paper ballots. These paper ballots were either not counted or counted more than once, officials said.

Election officials found out that memory cards designated to scan paper ballots were mislabeled. They were also uploaded into a machine used to calculate electronic ballots. This caused election officials to believe there was a miscount.

On election night, officials noticed there was still something wrong with the votes.

Once the ballot boxes were closed and sealed, they can only be opened by court order. Some of the Denton County boxes were out of order. They looked like a birds nest, Horn said. After unfolding and straightening out the ballots, the numbers seemed more normal. Horn said something still didn’t seem right.

“We got back to the company we buy our voting machines with and we discovered that five precincts had not been tabulated. We determined what was missing and had it redone,” Horn said. “Everything then made more sense. This whole process took almost two weeks.”

Texas law requires all votes be certified by Nov. 22. Horn said Denton County had everything finished about 7 p.m. the day before, Nov. 21.

“I’d call it the perfect storm, if it could go wrong, it did,” Horn said. “I never want to see that happen again. Protecting the integrity of the vote is important.”

There were three people who applied for the position as election administrator, and then it was narrowed down to two.

It came between Phillips and Kerry Martin, deputy elections administrator for Denton County since 2013, for the job.

Phillips has been with Tarrant County since 2014, but before that was deputy constable in Precinct 3, a chief administrator in the Precinct 3 commissioner’s office, and director of administration to Horn in Denton County over the span of 18 years. Phillips is set to return to Denton County on Dec. 7.

Horn said that she trusts in Phillips to to great and knows he has the management and organizational strengths that an elections administrator needs.

“The first thing you do is find someone with the skills Frank’s got, then is was necessary to let a few people go from the elections office, which did happen,” Horn said. “One of them was in their probation period, no issue there. The other one was a civil service employee, and with that we gave him a letter with intent to terminate and in a required period of time he has the opportunity to respond if he wants. Frank will fill those applications. They haven’t been posted yet because we want Frank to filter those and decide who he wants to put in those elections.”

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Julia Falcon

Julia Falcon

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