BASTROP COUNTY, Texas — A total of 484 Bastrop County voters each received three ballots by mail due to a processing error by the county's third-party vendor, SeaChange, Bastrop County Election Administrator Kristin Miles told KVUE Tuesday.
Miles told our partners at the Austin American-Statesman that the first ballot was received by voters in the first week of February and two subsequent ballots were received on Feb. 20. Early voting in Texas started on Feb. 18.
Miles told KVUE that, to date, 20 of the voters have returned multiple ballots by mail, with five voters returning all three.
"Our ballot by mail system will not allow for more than one ballot to be accepted for counting by each voter," Miles said. "On recommendation from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, the first ballot returned by voters will be counted and presented to the early voting ballot board. Any duplicate ballots that are received are null and void but will be retained with election records."
Bastrop County Elections also posted on their Facebook page about the incident last week.
Miles told the Statesman that her office sent SeaChange requests for 669 mail-in ballots to be sent to voters in two batches: one on Jan. 23, containing 484 requests, and one on Feb. 3, containing 185 requests. SeaChange was supposed to process the first batch by Jan. 31, Miles told the Statesman, saying that she believes they were mailed out on Feb. 4. Her office sent SeaChange the second batch of requests on Feb. 3, which should have been processed by Feb. 4.
But that didn't happen. Miles said SeaChange told her those ballots would be mailed by Feb. 6, then when another week went by, they told her they were mailed out on Feb. 9. But Miles said that second batch wasn't actually mailed out until Feb. 17, when post offices were closed for President's Day.
Miles told the Statesman that SeaChange's tracking system wasn't working at first and she wasn't able to view tracking information for the first and second batches of ballot requests until Feb. 17. She said she believes after repeated requests for confirmation that the second batch had been mailed, SeaChange mailed out that batch on Feb. 17 for the first and only time, as well as the first batch of ballots again twice that day, once with the former election administrator's name on the envelopes and once with Miles' name.
Miles told the Statesman that the Bastrop County Elections Office has used a third-party vendor to process voter requests for mail-in ballots since May 2017. They've used SeaChange since November 2019. Miles told KVUE that Bastrop County will no longer be using SeaChange to process ballots by mail. Instead, ballots will be mailed directly from the elections office.
On Tuesday, KVUE also spoke to both the chair of the Republican Party of Bastrop County and the chair of the county's Democratic Party about the incident. Both said they were pleased that the issue was caught and fixed right away.
“We have a fair election going on here, our elections administrator has jumped on it and the public shouldn’t need to worry about anything," said Dianna Greenwood, chair of the Bastrop County Republican Party.
“I’ve been working with elections – they’ve kept me informed of everything and I’m very confident that they’re taking care of it," said Steve Chamberlain, the chair of the Bastrop County Democratic Party.
District Attorney Bryan Goertz told KVUE in a statement that he would prosecute any voter fraud that constitutes a criminal offense, but couldn't comment on whether or not any of the recent incidents of mail-in voters returning more than one ballot actually constitutes a criminal offense without further investigation.
He also said that no mail-in ballot has actually been counted twice, as systems were already in place to prevent that from happening as a routine matter of practice.
KVUE reached out to SeaChange for comment but as of Tuesday night, we have not heard back.
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