A statewide analysis reveals that 37 Texas counties show voting discrepancies in the 2020 election but not enough to change the outcome of President Joe Biden’s win, the Associated Press reported.
Researchers from the University of Florida conducted the analysis in Texas’ 254 counties and found mistakes in both Republican and Democratic counties. Former President Donald Trump was listed by the Texas secretary of state as receiving 5,890,347 total votes but got 223 more, according to the findings. Meanwhile, Biden’s listed total was 5,259,126, but he received 155 more.
“It’s not a huge number,” Texas’ elections director, Keith Ingram, told the AP. “Obviously, we want everything to be precisely spot-on, and we’re going to give counties the ability to do that.”
Ingram said that he did not know about the discrepancies until the AP notified him. He added that Texas is trying to update its computer system so county vote tallies will automatically be transmitted instead of typed in.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:
A group of Texas Republicans wants to audit the 2020 election results in just the large, mostly Democratic counties across the state. If they get their way, they’ll miss many of the real—but minor—errors in the state’s vote count, according to the researchers.
The research adds to a pile of evidence that contradicts the belief, widespread among Republicans, that elections in Democratic areas are rife with errors, irregularities and mismanagement. While errors in the tally do occur, research shows they tend to be random and small scale and do not benefit one party or the other.
Election researchers from the University of Florida added or subtracted a handful of votes from various candidates with no skew toward one party or the other.
Minor mistakes like the Texas ones are relatively common, say election experts. In Texas, the errors are likely due to the state’s use of an older computer system that requires counties to enter their tallies by hand, increasing the risk of errors when the wrong digit is typed.
But they take on greater significance at a time when Trump supporters are calling for increased scrutiny of Democratic election offices, such as in Texas, where Attorney General Ken Paxton is among the Republicans supporting legislation that would audit the state’s largest counties—most of which were carried by Biden last year.
“If Texas is going to focus on the blue counties, that’s probably the wrong thing to do,” said Michael McDonald, the political scientist who led the team that found the Texas discrepancies. He also operates the U.S. Elections Project, which has tallies of all national elections since the nation’s founding. “They should look at all the counties because there’s something broken with this system.”
Ingram said the state’s upgraded computer system may not be ready for testing until next year’s primary.
Election experts say the Texas example shows the need for regular oversight of the system—as opposed to the so-called forensic audits that Trump supporters have backed that don’t follow established procedures and chase wild theories of voting fraud. An audit authorized by the Republican-controlled state Senate in Arizona’s largest county, for example, conducted a search for bamboo fibers on the ballots after a conspiracy theory circulated that fraudulent ballots for Biden were shipped in from Asia.
The Arizona audit has become a rallying cry for Trump backers who are convinced the election was stolen, although repeated professional audits and recounts have shown no mass voter fraud. They are pushing for new audits in Pennsylvania and Michigan. In Wisconsin, the Republican head of the assembly’s elections committee has promised an audit. In Texas, nearly three dozen Republicans signed on to a bill that would audit 13 counties with populations of more than 415,000 people. The bill has been in limbo, along with other GOP priorities, since Democrats bolted to Washington to block new voting laws.
The Republican lawmaker who proposed the Texas audit, state Representative Steve Toth, expressed bafflement to The Washington Post about expanding it to smaller counties. “What’s the point?” Toth said. “I mean, all the small counties are red.”
Toth’s office did not respond to emails seeking comment from the AP.
The Texas discrepancies are “why having real election audits and reconciliation audits is important—to make sure any transcription error like that is caught,” said Tammy Patrick, a former Maricopa County, Arizona, election official who works with the Democracy Fund and is a critic of the partisan audits. “It’s important that we don’t look at those kind of errors as cavalier or that they don’t matter, because they do, but they’re not indicative necessarily of fraud.”
The mistakes range from Travis County, which includes Austin, reporting 100 too-few votes for a state Supreme Court candidate to small, conservative counties like Gillespie in Texas’ Hill Country, where the totals were a single vote off in a handful of races.
“If it’s different, then that’s going to be an input error, and it’s probably on the secretary of state,” said Terry Hamilton, a clerk in the Gillespie County elections office.
The discrepancies don’t all stem from transcription errors. In Kleberg County, near the southern Texas coast—a 30,000-population county won by Trump—Election Director Stephanie Garza had long-delayed knee replacement surgery three days after the election.
That meant she wasn’t able to personally ensure that ballots judged to be legal days after the election—known as provisional ballots and, in Texas, also limited ballots—were included in the final numbers sent to the secretary of state.
Because they were omitted, Trump’s winning total was understated by 71 votes, and Biden’s total was missing 67.
Garza said she was mortified to find out about the omission, even though it represents only a minuscule fraction of ballots cast in the presidential race.
“As an election director, you don’t want to be off whatsoever,” Garza said.