By next week, the Dallas County Board of Supervisors will be appointing members to the General Election Review Commission as a part of the Dallas County Election Review Plan. The idea was presented to the Board of Supervisors by Dallas County Auditor and Elections Commissioner, Julia Helm, at the Board’s regular meeting on Tuesday in response to the recent errors in reporting the General Election results in Dallas County.
“We have touched base with the Secretary of State on this and they gave us their approval,” Helm said at the meeting.
5,842 absentee ballots were not transferred into the total General Election results in November due to human error. The outcomes of all races were unchanged as most of the uncounted ballots were proportionate to how the election results were reported.
The commission, according to a letter from Helm to the Board, will consist of one Democrat from the Special Precinct Board, one Republican from the Special Precinct Board, one representative from the Republican Party and one representative from the Democratic Party.
Helm is going to reach out to get names to bring to the board for appointment by next week’s meeting.
The commission would then meet on a date to be set by the Board of Supervisors, and review the documents and the number of absentee votes not transferred into the “totals group report,” which is defined as the “combination of results from the polls and the absentee precinct.”
“We just thought for transparency and public confidence that we should bring people from the outside in to look at this material,” Helm said.
This process is not something that is required by the state.
She said it would be her goal to be able to bring back the proceedings from the Commission to the Board of Supervisors for their review on Feb. 28.
The final report will then be sent to the Secretary of State’s office to be added, as a supplement, to the official General Election results, although, they will not be counted in the final numbers since the county does not have the authority to re-canvass or recount the official votes once they are canvassed.
Even though the votes can’t be re-canvassed, the report that will be submitted to the Secretary of State will still provides additional public view and an opportunity to reject or accept the report if it is not sufficient, says Dallas County Attorney, Wayne Reisetter.
“When the report comes back to you, there’s a public discussion about it. It’s not behind closed doors,” Reisetter said. “Secondly… it gives the opportunity for you to say ‘wait a minute, it doesn’t really speak to the issue, or there appears to be something insufficient with the report itself,’ so you could certainly reject that report.”
Supervisor Mark Hanson mentioned that the error was made while Gene Krum was still Auditor and Elections Commissioner, but still questioned whether or not Helm should lead the General Election Review Commission.
Helm said that she is open to suggestions and the she would be open to having the members of the Commission choose one among them to be the Chair and lead the group.
For insight into the absentee elections process and how they can make the process better in the future, Helm said she will ask the the two chairs from the Absentee Board, one Democrat and one Republican, to be a part of the Commission.
“Because they’ve worked several elections, so they would have at least some background information,” Helm said. “But we felt like we needed to open it up to a representative from each political party to come also.”
Supervisor Chair Kim Chapman thinks that’s a good idea but also suggested that they should get someone with more expertise in election law since they will be making recommendations.
“Could it be another commissioner of elections from another county that would come and assist in this process or someone from the Secretary of State’s office?” Chapman asked.
Helm said that she would take the recommendation and could ask for who could come, but also explained that it could be difficult since different counties and different jurisdictions use different technologies and, sometimes, different processes.
She said that right now, this is planned as a one-time-only commission, but that it is possible that it could go on the future.
The Board will receive a list of names recommended for appointment at next week’s meeting on Feb. 21 in Adel.