A Starr County resident voted twice in the Rio Grande City school board election, and two other voters nearly did the same, according to Hilda Gonzalez Garza, the elections administrator.
Gonzalez Garza and school board Trustee Dr. Daria Babineaux, who’s currently running for reelection, said that on Tuesday there were three incidents of individuals who were able to sign in to vote in two different polling sites.
In Starr County, elections are split up and require voters to go to several voting sites to cast ballots in the presidential, local and school district elections.
Babineaux explained a window of opportunity for voting for the same races at multiple sites was created by a wireless internet outage that kept the voting machines from syncing.
“The first one went over to the Fort (Ringgold), did vote, and then came over to the courthouse to do the city election,” Babineaux said. “However, the machine had not updated so he was able to (sign) in like he hadn’t voted.”
The elections admin further explained that the district’s internet outage had affected their poll pads, machines used to scan voters’ state-issued identification and sign them in.
Two of the individuals recognized they had already voted, according to Gonzalez Garza, but the third actually did vote twice.
Jay Peña, another school board candidate running on a political slate rivaling Babineaux, said he was notified of the incidents but didn’t have any other details. But he did suggest that the split of voting sites for the city, presidential and school board elections could have been a factor.
“I know, for sure, there has been a lot of confusion that I know of,” Peña said.
He explained that the county coordinated with the school district so that people can vote for the presidential races and the school board races at the same locations. However, voters have to use different machines for each election.
For the Rio Grande City elections, though, there is only one polling site for early voting which is the county courthouse.
“It’s not unusual for folks to go to one site to go vote and then to head off and try to vote for the city at the courthouse,” Peña said.
Babineaux acknowledged that it was a possibility that the individuals were confused about the different polling locations.
“We are hoping, of course, that this is just confusion; no one wants to think that anybody would maliciously vote twice,” she said.
Still, she noted that on the day these incidents occurred, the district had prolonged issues with their wireless internet — issues that had occurred in the past, but hadn’t lasted as long as they did on Tuesday, Babineaux said.
“I want to think that, yes, maybe it is just a comedy of, kind of, errors. However, it is a little concerning that the day when we had these issues, that we had so many of these attempted infractions,” Babineaux said.
Gonzalez Garza said she sent information of the incidents to the Texas Secretary of State’s office who will decide whether to forward the information to the Texas Attorney General’s office.
Regarding the overall situation, Babineaux said she wanted to urge the public to take their time and be careful when they’re filling out a ballot to ensure they’re not voting twice.
“This is a crime, it shouldn’t be taken lightly,” Babineaux said about voting twice. “We’re not, of course, accusing anybody at this point because it’s an ongoing investigation but we do want to make sure that people understand that these kinds of things do make elections and the process very difficult for all of those who are trying to participate and do it the right way.”
Monitor staff writer Valerie Gonzalez contributed to this report.