Election concerns arise in Hays County weeks before early voting begins

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Secretary of State's office says concern doesn't warrant investigation but commissioners want change

HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Some in Hays County are concerned the elections office may not be properly tracking and documenting ballots.

Sam Brannon says according to public documents and his own request for information from the elections office, some recounts for the March primary either didn’t happen, didn’t happen properly or weren’t documented.

Brannon, a Hays County Republican Party precinct chair, filed a complaint with the Secretary of State’s office and brought the issue to the attention of the Hays County Commissioners Court.

The Secretary of State’s Office does not have investigative authority. It can refer a complaint to the Attorney General’s office for further investigation, but in a letter to Brannon indicated his complaints did not warrant such action.

Brannon’s complaints are, however, prompting scrutiny and a possible change to procedures within the county.

“This is the foundation of a free society. People need to believe that we have recourse at the ballot box,” he said.

Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra says he “found it all disturbing,” especially in light of hundreds of ballots being unaccounted for during the last general election.

“They were going to put in new policies and procedures to make sure that couldn’t happen,” Brannon said.

“This individual is asking for proof that an audit was conducted that the secretary of state is asking for, and none is given. The state doesn’t have proof that it was turned in. We don’t have proof that it was conducted,” he said.

The Secretary of State called for a recount of the railroad commissioner races in precincts 121, 316 and 336.

Hays County Commissioners grilled elections administrator Jennifer Anderson during Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting.

Anderson says all proper procedures were followed, but Brannon and Becerra say even if that is true, there’s little proof.

“The chain of custody, again, is the problem,” Becerra said. “When your paper ballot version drops into the box, we have not been able to–on a paper trail about your paper ballot–we have not been able to show it every step of the way, where it’s going and where it’s been. And, sadly, this is a years-long problem.”

Anderson addressed the issue at Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting, saying, “we’ll definitely work on that.”

She said election equipment is currently being tracked and logged but not necessarily the ballots, themselves.

Brannon also wants outside oversight on the elections office.

“I think we really need to get focused on making sure that we get it right in November,” he said.

Becerra says he will try to get action items regarding the current tracking process on the next commissioners court agenda.

“As a chair of the Elections Commission and the chair of the Commissioner’s court and sitting on the elections board–I can’t sidestep this. This is real. And in such an important presidential election, it’s important that we do everything as we should,” Becerra said.

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