By ANTON RIECHER
A Republican election official alleges her concerns that an inaccurate final tabulation of Medina County votes may have been submitted to state officials in the November general election. This article includes Whitney Riley’s concerns which she presented at Commissioner’s Court as well as a response from Medina County Elections Administrator who says the descrepancies were rectified.
Whitney Riley, who served as Republican presiding judge for the election, told the Medina County Commissioners Court on Feb. 9 about problems both in testing and during the actual election getting the vote totals to reconcile with the number of ballots cast.
“I would like to bring election integrity to the minds of all the commissioners here this morning,” Riley said.
During the first logic and accuracy test conducted of the county election system it took hours to get the totals to reconcile correctly, she said. Even after correcting an erroneous equipment setting, election officials still found discrepancies after a second test.
“Even in this controlled environment both tests produced results different from the actual ballots that were tabulated,” Riley said. “Reconciliation for hours was needed to even get close to the actual ballots cast.”
On hand for at central counting on election night, Riley said she saw voting machines being returned with security seals broken and thumb drives removed.
“Machines were returned without being properly shut down,” she said. “Tally sheets did not clearly state the number of voter’s spoiled ballots.”
Riley made her statement during the public comment portion of the commissioners court agenda.
RESPONSE FROM ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATOR:
Elections Administrator Lupe Torres responded to the allegations that were made, and assures the community that the discrepancies were rectified.
Every year, a logic and accuracy test is done before elections begin and errors made during this process are corrected prior to the election commencing, Torres explained.
“During the Logic and Accuracy Testing for the November 2022 Election, the Logic and Accuracy Testing was conducted, however individuals who were assisting with this process, failed to follow instructions, causing the results not to match the desired outcome,” Torres said.
“After reviewing the test deck vs the voted print records, we found out where the discrepancies were and we were able to correct them,” Torres said. “It did take several hours because we had to go through it manually and cross reference. When the numbers were finalized, the Central Counting Station Judges, who were hand chosen by the Party Chairs, signed off on the successful completion of the Logic and Accuracy Testing.”
Torres stated that “we had a lot of new poll workers this year that were hand-chosen by the Party Chairs, many of whom were poll judges for the first time and were not familiar with the process,” Torres said.
Nothing like this has ever occurred in Medina County during his tenure. According to Torres who added that “This election was more difficult than previous elections.”
In response the allegation about voting machine seals, Torres stated, “When all the voting machines are returned from the polling locations by the Poll Judges, they do not have seals, however are locked. The election media/usb drives are then removed by me (Elections Administrator) personally and placed in a envelope, which is then forwarded to the Central Counting Station personnel.”
“As for the statement that some machines being returned without being properly shut down and that some Tally Sheets were inaccurately returned….This is accurate, however, this was due to the inexperience of some of the Poll Judges that were hand chosen by the Party Chairs. For some, this was the first election that they had participated as a poll Judge/worker,” Torres said.
In other business, Katelyn Thacker of Hondo High School repeated her second place finish presentation in the American Legion District Oratorical Contest. She stressed that exercising the first amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing free speech was the best way to protect the second amendment to bear arms.
“By supporting our second amendment by using our first amendment we are showing not only our government that we can stand independent as citizens,” Thacker said.
Commissioners also heard from a representative of SJRC Texas, formerly St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. Belong, a division of SJRC Texas, a 502 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, is now the lead provider for community-based foster care in Medina County.
As of Feb. 2, Medina County had 63 children in foster care. Only 18 of those children were placed in homes in Medina County.
In 2021, the Legislature passed sweeping reforms to the state’s foster care system, hoping to address issues raised in a 2011 federal lawsuit that found Texas violated the constitutional rights of foster children. One aspect of that change is moving foster care placement from the state Department of Family and Protective Services to nonprofit organizations such as SJRC Texas.
Paul Yura, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, recognized Medina County as “going above and beyond” in weather preparedness by designated the county as “Storm Ready.”
The certificate and official sign acknowledges the accomplishments and preparations to enhance community safety and improve preparedness for hazardous weather. In particular, the sheriff’s office manages a 24-hour Warning Point (dispatch) and maintains multiple sources to receive NWS warnings and the capabilities to quickly disseminate emergency messages to the public.
Commissioners voted to give final approval to Sky View Ranch subdivision. Located in precinct 3 off FM 1796, Phase 1 of the 499-acre subdivision consists of 37 lots averaging about 10 acres each. The subdivision includes gated private roads and a 30,000 gallons storage tank dedicated to firefighting.
Seventeen lots have been sold to date, a representative for Matkin Hoover reported.
Precinct 3 Commissioner David Lynch made the motion to support final approval which passed unanimously.
Likewise, the commissioners gave final approval for the Medina Verde subdivision located in precinct 3 off County Road 5715, four miles north of Natalia. The subdivision includes 1,000 feet of private roadway maintained by the property owners association and available for public use.
County Treasurer Debbie Southwell reported that the county has a cash balance from combined funds of $24,370,620 with a debt owed of $26,840,427. The commissioners approved disbursement of funds to pay $31,772 in utilities.
The commissioners also approved $31,000 in additional items added to the remodel and expansion of the precinct 1 barn.