The Board is on the Front Lines of Ensuring Election Integrity
The integrity of our election process is a major concern across the country. With the current push towards increasing mail ballot accessibility due to the pandemic, the concerns have increased. One of the many ways Collin County ensures that elections are conducted fairly and securely is through the Ballot Board, which most Collin County voters have never heard of.
The Ballot Board is authorized in each Texas County via the Texas Election Code. It consists of citizens from both major political parties, and is charged with auditing the election process. The Presiding Judge of the Ballot Board is nominated by the political party with the most votes in each county and is approved by the Commissioners Court; the Alternate Judge is a member of the other major political party. The remaining members are chosen by the two Judges and their party officials as needed. In a small election the Ballot Board might consist of 6-8 members; in a Presidential Election 30-40 persons could make up the Ballot Board. In Collin County, the Presiding Judge since 2002 has been Neal J. Katz, who also serves as Executive Director of the Collin County Republican Party.
The Ballot Board’s Audit Process:
- Reviews the daily reports submitted by the Election Judges at each location during Early Voting. This includes verifying the vote totals each day by checking the number of voters on the polls lists to the number of signature labels to the reported totals on the daily report sheet. The Board looks to make sure all data is being reported correctly on the form. It looks for other information submitted in the package each day and distributes that data to different areas of the Election Department as needed. By starting this review after Day One of Early Voting, problems can be corrected during Early Voting instead of having to fix them after the fact.
- Processes those ballots received by mail. In 2018, the Board processed over 21,000 ballots. Requests for mail ballots and other information is scanned and kept on file. The Board reviews each ballot, checking to see that that signature on the ballot application matches the signature on the envelope that is used to return the actual ballot to Elections. If a signature is not accepted, it goes to the Ballot Board Judges for a final decision. In addition, the Board looks carefully at submissions that have witness signatures and possibly other issues. Once the ballots are approved, they are opened and stacked for processing by the County’s new high speed counters. To ensure security, the ballots are sealed in the ballot board room, signed off on by both Judges, and then opened only in the tabulation room where the seals are re-checked. Ballot security is taken very seriously.
- Processes all provisional votes, Board members open all sealed bags containing provisional votes, both during Early Voting and Election Night, and organize them by voting location, The Elections Department reviews each provisional vote, verifying registration and any other issue, There findings are then returned to the Ballot Board, who makes the final decision as to whether the provisional vote will count. In both the 2016 and 2018 November elections, the Board handled over 2000 provisional votes, of which only 8% counted.
- Downloads all of the Early Voting machines and verifies that the totals at the end of Early Voting match the sum of the totals submitted each day. The Board also checks the seals on each machine to verify they have not been tampered with. Considering that Early Voting in 2016 and 2018 totaled 80% of ballots voted for the entire election, this might be the most important task of all.
As a final note, all material involved in an election, including mail ballots, empty ballot envelopes, mail ballot return envelopes, electronic media, forms, etc. are sealed up and retained for 22 months.
For more information on the Ballot Board, or to volunteer to be on the Board in future elections, contact us.