A technical issue with voting machines on Tuesday caused a long delay for Fort Bend County voters on the first day of early voting.
For two-plus hours, voting machines in the county were down, causing long lines and plenty of frustration.
County Judge KP George called for an investigation into the matter and said he was “extremely disappointed” about the county’s voting machines not working.
“Those who are responsible will be held accountable. In an era voter where suppression is real, I will authorize a full investigation and call for accountability,” George tweeted.
George asked voters to remain in line or come back at another time to vote.
“Remember, people have died for our right to vote,” George also posted on Facebook. “Stay in line or come back at a convenient time – the future of our country depends on us. You have three weeks to vote early. Remember, we have also extended the hours on the last three days of Early Voting till 9pm for working families.
“Those who are responsible will be held accountable. In an era voter where suppression is real, I will authorize a full investigation and call for accountability.”
At 11:09 a.m., George tweeted that machines at the Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land were “fully operational.”
And at the weekly commissioners’ court meeting, George apologized to voters who left the line to vote. “I apologize for the inconvenience, even though I had nothing to do with it,” he said. “I just ask that those who left to come back at another convenient time.”
Several county residents expressed their frustration of not being able to vote on social media. “It is absolute voter suppression what is going on in Fort Bend County,” one person tweeted. “I have been in line since 8:30 and the polls County wide were broken at 8 because the machines to admit us were down. And we were not notified of what was happening until 9 so the lines have been stalled.”
George was in Sugar Land to oversee the opening of the “mega-voting” site at the Smart Financial Centre on Tuesday morning. He greeted several voters who stood in line as voting began at 8 a.m.
But the malfunction of the machines caused several long lines across the county, angering those who want to vote Tuesday.
Fort Bend County Elections Administrator John Oldham said the delay stemmed from a “mismatch between our poll books and our server.”
Specifically, the poll books — basically, laptops that are used to check in voters — had the wrong start date for early voting. The date had been set for Oct. 19 but was not revised when Gov. Greg Abbott announced in July that early voting would begin Oct. 13.
“That meant that no voters could be checked in,” Oldham explained, who conceded his office should have caught the error and corrected it in time.
“We had to do a work around by updated the date on each laptop in the 30 sites.”
He said his staff would do a permanent fix after polls closed Tuesday.
Oldham said the electronic voting machines themselves were not affected Tuesday and all the votes cast will be counted.
Even after getting the polls up and running around 11 a.m. Tuesday, voters had problems casting ballots at sites across the county, specifically in Four Corners and Fulshear High School.
Nancy Fatheree of Fulshear said she arrived at Fulshear High School at 2:20 p.m. to vote and had to wait outside in line until almost 4 p.m.
“One person told me she had waited in line for four hours because the voting machines were down. I didn’t know if I should stay in line or leave. If the machines are broken, would my vote count?”
She said it appeared only one election judge was working at the polling site.
Oldham said one person may have been working at the voting station to check in voters but there were numerous machines available for voters to use.
Many voters went on social media Tuesday to vent their frustration with the delay and some said it smacked of “voter suppression.”
As a result of the problems, George and the Fort Bend County Commissioners’ Court have approved an extension of voting hours for the rest of the week, meaning voting locations across the county will remain open until 7 p.m. until this Saturday.
“I will do everything in my power to ensure every voter in Fort Bend County is able to cast their ballot this and every election cycle,” George said in a statement. “We have extended early voting hours until 7 pm for this entire week and will ensure that no similar issues will arise.”
Sources tell The Herald that the glitch was a manmade one, as the programming of the machines were set to begin voting on Monday, Oct. 17, the original day of early voting.
But Gov. Greg Abbott in July expanded early voting for an extra week of early voting, which began on Tuesday.
The machines could not access the list of eligible voters, but the error was corrected two hours after early voting was supposed to begin.
There were other situations at four different voting locations that also suffered problems with the voting machines, but those minor problems were fixed later in the day.