TARRANT COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) - Some voting centers were providing ballots for only Republicans, or only Democrats, Tuesday, March 1 in Tarrant County, after political parties didn't recruit enough working to run the election.
Democrats didn't have staff for at least 10 vote centers, and Republicans didn't staff two or three, according to elections administrator Heider Garcia.
Hand-written signs were posted at one vote center on Beach St. in Fort Worth, telling voters it was a "Republican primary only right now" until Democrat officials could arrive. Staff was directing voters to other locations within two to three miles to try to find a Democrat ballot.
State election code holds county political parties responsible for appointing election judges for precincts in primary elections. However state law also requires counties that use vote centers, which allow any registered voter to vote, to serve all voters regardless of party affiliation, Garcia said.
"You have to open for every voter, even in the case of a primary, for every voter of every party," Garcia told county leaders during a briefing Tuesday. "You can't say only party A is here, party B is not."
Because of that, Garcia said his office requested parties in locations where staff was missing, to help out the other side, set up machines and get ballots to their voters. They agreed in eight locations, but didn't in at least three spots.
In those cases, the elections official has emergency authority to appoint someone to act as election judge. Garcia said he sent some department staff that was trained to go to the locations and make sure they opened.
State and county Democrats had been posting alerts on social media over the last few days, asking for election judges to make sure vote centers didn't have to shut down.
Garcia said either party could have reached out to his office ahead of time to arrange for a backup plan to prevent delays or closures.
He also said a joint primary election would help avoid the issue in the future, with one set of staff members running the voting for all parties. To this point though he said county political parties had not agreed to that option.
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