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A Quarter Of Tarrant County's 70,000 Mail-In Ballots Projected To Be Defective

Heider Garcia talks to press.
Chris Connelly
Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia talks to members of the press about the unexpected number of defective mail-in ballots during the 2020 election. Garcia blames a printing issue.

The Tarrant County Elections Administrator said last week a printing issue has left many mail-in ballots unscannable. The county approved almost 60 more people to help the elections office duplicate the ballots that can't be scanned.

Tarrant County Elections announced that by 9 p.m. on Election Night, the county had received almost 70,000 mail-in ballots, and 20-25% of them were defective.

Last week, Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia told county commissioners that some barcodes on mail-in ballots were unscannable, due to a printing issue.

That means the ballot board has to duplicate the defective ballots, copying the votes onto legible ones.

The ballot board is a team of people nominated by different political parties, which is already in charge of duplicating overseas ballots or mail-in ballots that are sent in damaged. So the process itself isn’t new — the sheer number of ballots to copy is.

Garcia told the county election board at an emergency meeting Monday that they had a shortage of ballot board members available because of the pandemic.

“Most of them have expressed concerns about the pandemic and having to work with multiple others around them, and certain difficulties to achieve social distancing, especially the work that has to be done paired,” he said.

The election board agreed to add an additional 56 ballot board members, 32 from the Democratic Party’s nominations and 24 from the Republican Party’s. Before the expansion, the ballot board had 80 members.

Garcia said the ballot rejection rate fluctuates from day to day, but hovers between 24% to 28%. They won't know the final rate until all mail-in ballots are counted.

However, he said if the rate holds at about 25% rejection, he said the ballot board could have to remake at least 17,000 or 18,000 ballots.

In a press conference after the election board meeting, Garcia said some of the defective ballots won't be ready by 7 p.m. on Election Night, when the county plans to release early voting results.

“That’s not a problem. Number one, the law says it’s OK, and we want to make sure we count those ballots right,” he said.

On Election Night, there were still 11,000 votes that could need a remake.

That's a small proportion of the total votes. Tarrant County surpassed its total turnout in 2016 during the early voting period.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Tarrant County accountability reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.