Vote Centers, Long Lines, and Provisional Ballots in Galveston County, Texas

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Election Day did not get off to a smooth start in Galveston County, Texas. Unfortunately it didn’t finish well either.

The county was using vote centers for the first time during a presidential election, which allows voters to cast their ballot at any polling location. Of the 45 centers in the county, 38 reportedly did not open on time, leading to waits of one to 4.5 hours for some voters and prompting a judge to extend voting by almost two hours.

What happened?

State law requires a zero-out report on Election Day—printing out all races on every voting machine to ensure no votes have been recorded before polls open. The challenge with doing this in a vote center county is that each voting system has every possible ballot programmed into it—and they all must be printed out. In some cases the machines ran out paper and then had to be restocked. County election officials said this took much longer than they expected.

And the county’s woes didn’t end there. The 382 ballots cast during the court-mandated extended voting period were required by law to be cast as provisional ballots. Overall, more than 1,900 provisional ballots were cast in the county, although in one more hiccup, election officials still could not agree on the final count of provisional ballots three days after the election. Eventually all provisional ballots were accounted for.