Out­stand­ing bal­lots leave race un­de­cided

San Antonio Express-News - - METRO - By Dy­lan McGuin­ness and John Tedesco STAFF WRIT­ERS

Elec­tion of­fi­cials in 29 Texas coun­ties are fu­ri­ously count­ing out­stand­ing votes in the Con­gres­sional District 23 elec­tion, in which Repub­li­can Rep. Will Hurd holds a nar­row lead with at least 859 bal­lots out­stand­ing.

Hurd, a two-term in­cum­bent, thought he had a com­fort­able win Tues­day night, when the As­so­ci­ated Press called the race for him around 11 p.m.

But the con­test tight­ened in the early morn­ing hours Wed­nes­day, and it ap­peared — for a half-hour — that Demo­cratic chal­lenger Gina Or­tiz Jones had pulled off an up­set.

Then the lead changed hands again, and the state’s un­of­fi­cial re­sults showed Hurd win­ning by 689 votes. Later Wed­nes­day, a tab­u­la­tion er­ror in Jones’ fa­vor was dis­cov­ered in Cul­ber­son County. Once the er­ror was cor­rected, Hurd’s mar­gin had in­creased to 1,150 votes — out of more than 200,000 cast.

Since then, the Jones cam­paign has vowed that it “won’t stop work­ing un­til ev­ery pro­vi­sional bal­lot, ab­sen­tee bal­lot and mil­i­tary or over­seas bal­lot has been counted.”

The Hurd camp doesn’t think it will change the re­sult.

“All bal­lots should be and will be counted in TX 23,” said Justin Hol­lis, Hurd’s cam­paign man­ager. “What Gina Jones fails to rec­og­nize is that there is no way she will win this race, given Will Hurd’s in­sur­mount­able lead.”

Elec­tions ad­min­is­tra­tors and county bal­lot boards have un­til Nov. 20 to cer­tify their vote tal­lies and pro­vide them to the gov­er­nor, who has un­til Dec. 6 to cer­tify the re­sult of the elec­tion.

On Fri­day, Bexar County — which ac­counts for more than half the votes in the district — up­dated its tally to re­flect 446 bal­lots counted since elec­tion night. Hurd re­ceived 183, Jones 253 and Lib­er­tar­ian can­di­date Ruben Cor­valan 10.

Jones gained a net 70 votes, re­duc­ing Hurd’s over­all mar­gin to 1,080.

Bexar County Elec­tions Ad­min­is­tra­tor Jacque Cal­la­nen said there’s been a steady stream of lawyers and cam­paign work­ers at the county’s Elec­tions De­part­ment ask­ing ques­tions about the un­counted bal­lots.

“We haven’t seen so many lawyers in here since for­ever,” she said.

At least 859 bal­lots are still out­stand­ing, ac­cord­ing to county elec­tions of­fi­cials across the district, but it’s un­clear how many

will ul­ti­mately be in­cluded in the fi­nal count.

The San An­to­nio Ex­press-News asked all 29 coun­ties in the highly com­pet­i­tive swing district for their num­ber of out­stand­ing bal­lots. Six­teen pro­vided fig­ures. Those coun­ties ac­counted for 87 per­cent of the to­tal votes cast as of Tues­day night.

They in­clude the coun­ties where Jones re­ceived some of her great­est sup­port. In El Paso County, where Jones won 78.57 per­cent of the votes counted so far, elec­tions ad­min­is­tra­tor Lisa Wise said 256 bal­lots were out­stand­ing. Of those, 138 were pro­vi­sional bal­lots and 118 were mail bal­lots re­ceived Wed­nes­day. The county was still wait­ing on eight over­seas and mil­i­tary bal­lots.

The types of out­stand­ing votes vary greatly. Pro­vi­sional bal­lots are cast by vot­ers who did not bring ac­cept­able ID to the polls or who had a prob­lem with their reg­is­tra­tion. Those who didn’t com­ply with ID re­quire­ments have un­til Tues­day to re­turn to their county elec­tions of­fice and show a valid ID. If they do, their vote is counted. Oth­er­wise, it isn’t.

Vot­ers who had reg­is­tra­tion is­sues can’t re­solve the sit­u­a­tion on their own, said Sam Tay­lor, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for the sec­re­tary of state’s of­fice. It’s up to the county voter reg­is­trar to de­ter­mine whether the vote is valid and should be counted.

In a sep­a­rate cat­e­gory are bal­lots that were sent in ad­vance to vot­ers over­seas or serv­ing in the mil­i­tary. Those must be re­turned by 5 p.m. Tues­day. The 16 coun­ties that pro­vided fig­ures to the Ex­press-News are wait­ing for a to­tal of 357 over­seas or mil­i­tary bal­lots. It’s any­one’s guess how many will be re­turned.

At the Bexar County Com­mis­sion­ers Court on Fri­day morn­ing, cam­paign staffers for Jones lam­basted Cal­la­nen, the county’s elec­tion ad­min­is­tra­tor, for her re­fusal to re­lease a list of vot­ers who cast pro­vi­sional bal­lots.

Kristian Car­ranca Thomp­son, a field di­rec­tor for Jones, said the cam­paign wanted to in­form those vot­ers that they needed to “cure” their bal­lots so they would be counted.

“This is pub­lic record, so those pub­lic records should given to those who are re­quest­ing it,” she said.

Tay­lor said the lists of pro­vi­sional vot­ers do not be­come pub­lic un­til the county’s early vot­ing bal­lot board has com­pleted its tally of pro­vi­sional votes. In Bexar County, the board hasn’t fin­ished.

“They’re ask­ing me to break the law, and I’m not go­ing to do it,” Cal­la­nen said.

The vot­ers should al­ready have been no­ti­fied, said Tay­lor of the sec­re­tary of state’s of­fice. When those who didn’t bring ac­cept­able ID cast a pro­vi­sional bal­lot, they’re given a writ­ten no­tice that they must re­turn to ver­ify their iden­tity, he said.

The fi­nal re­sults of the elec­tion likely will be de­ter­mined by the last week in Novem­ber, Tay­lor said.

Noelle Rosellini, Jones’ cam­paign man­ager, said elec­tion of­fi­cials should be work­ing as hard as they can to get the votes counted.

“It’s ab­surd and un­for­tu­nate that they’re not do­ing that right now,” she said. “We hope that they’ll re­lease the in­for­ma­tion be­fore the dead­line so all bal­lots can be counted.”

Rosellini also said Demo­cratic Party lawyers sent Cal­la­nen a let­ter chal­leng­ing her state­ments about which bal­lots can be cured — elec­tion of­fi­cials have said only those from vot­ers who didn’t sat­isfy ID re­quire­ments can be cured by the vot­ers.

Tay­lor said Cal­la­nen has been cor­rectly in­ter­pret­ing the law.

Lisa Krantz / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Gina Or­tiz Jones, speak­ing af­ter the Bexar County Demo­cratic Party’s elec­tion night watch party, is await­ing the re­sults of at least 859 out­stand­ing bal­lots in the race for Con­gres­sional District 23.



Dar­ren Abate / As­so­ci­ated Press

The cam­paign of U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San An­to­nio, speak­ing on elec­tion night, said it doesn’t think that the out­stand­ing bal­lots in his race will re­sult in him los­ing his seat in Con­gres­sional District 23.

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