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Tarrant County Election Board approves 56 new members in emergency meeting to help with thousands of mail-in ballots

Electronic scanners had rejected about one-third of mailed ballots in Tarrant County, the elections administrator told county commissioners on Tuesday, Oct 27.

FORT WORTH, Texas — This is a developing story and will be updated.

The Tarrant County Election Board held an emergency meeting Monday morning, where an additional 56 Democratic and Republican members were approved to join the board. 

Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia said more board members are needed to deal with mail-in ballots that have to be rescanned due to a printing error, which was announced last week. 

Garcia said by law, two ballot board members – of different political parties – sit down together and make an exact copy of the unscannable ballot. The new copy is then fed into the machine.

RELATED: Tarrant County elections officials rescanning thousands of ballots after machine error

Eighty original ballot board members were appointed and available to do this work. But Garcia said due to “concerns, COVID-19, (and) changes in their availability, they’re not there.”

On Monday, the Tarrant County Democratic Party provided 32 names to be added to the ballot board. The Tarrant County Republican Party provided 24 names. These additional 56 names can now be called upon to help. 

“Integrity goes first,” Garcia said. “And if we have to go slow and steady, then so be it. Because we want to be able to stand by it.”

During the emergency meeting, Garcia also provided an update on the percentage of processed ballots that the scanners have been unable to read. 

“The rejection rate has been fluctuating between 24-28%, up and down,” Garcia said. Last week, Garcia said about a third of mail in ballots were being rejected. 

The ballot board will create copies, as the law requires, and then scan those copies properly to make sure the ballots are counted. 

Garcia said last week that the vast majority of the ballots will be copied and counted in time for results to be released as scheduled on Election Night.

"We started noticing about a third of them were being rejected by the scanners when they’re imaged," Garcia told county commissioners. 

The problem appears to be with the scanners not reading every ballot barcode. 

Garcia said the ballot board has already made exact copies of over 3,000 ballots. This work continued Monday. However, Garcia expects that there will still be between 5,000 and 10,000 left to do, come 7 p.m. Tuesday. 

“The law says, that if we get to 7 p.m. on Election Night, and we haven’t finished processing everything that is in house by then, we have to count continuously until we get it done,” Garcia said. 

Garcia said this means ballot board members will be working 24/7 until the job is complete. He said the deadline to have official results is 14 days after the election by law.

“Obviously the sooner the better. But speed’s not the goal here. Speed’s not the goal,” Garcia said. “It’s accuracy and it’s integrity.”

By the end of early voting on Friday, Tarrant County elections officials reported to the state they had received 62,913 cumulative mail-in votes so far, compared to 666,582 in-person votes. 

RELATED: Voter guide: What you need to know before heading to the polls

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