News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Tarrant County election results delayed due to computer issue, elections chief confirms

Election signs line a sidewalk.
Miranda Suarez
Election signs dotted the sidewalk at the Southside Community Center in Fort Worth on March 1, Election Day.

County officials were looking into what was causing technical issues. “Our computers are great until they’re not," Judge Glen Whitley said.

Tarrant County's elections administrator said the computer issue that delayed the release of election results on Tuesday night had no effect on the accuracy of the count.

Early voting results were released shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday, when voting ended. Through the evening, as other counties updated vote tallies from ballots cast on election day, Tarrant County was not releasing updated results.

County Judge Glen Whitley announced the problem after 10 p.m. Tuesday at the watch party for Betsy Price, one of the Republican primary candidates for Tarrant County judge.

“We’ve had a problem at the county,” Whitley said. “Our computers are great until they’re not and right now they’re not.”

Heider Garcia, Tarrant County's elections administrator, offered more specifics in an interview on Wednesday.

One computer that received vote count data couldn't accumulate that data to be posted on the county's website, he said.

"This wasn't a problem of the counting of votes. This was an issue with the unofficial reporting of the already counted votes," Garcia said.

Garcia explained that each vote counting machine has two USB drives that hold identical vote count information.

Poll workers use the first USB drive to electronically transmit the day's results to the elections department. Those are what Garcia called "unofficial" results, the numbers that people wait for as results trickle in after polls close on Election Day.

But on Tuesday night, the data aggregation failure made posting those results impossible.

That meant elections staff had to skip the unofficial count and do the official count, which is usually done the day after an election, Garcia said.

That's where the second USB drive comes in. Poll workers put the second USB drives in sealed bags and physically deliver them to elections staff.

This process makes sure one set of results never touches the internet and stays safe from any infiltration, Garcia explained.

"It's more of an extreme, 'Let's be extremely transparent and cautious' measure than anything else," Garcia said.

Garcia declined to speculate on what caused the computer malfunction, but he said the elections department will work with the Texas Secretary of State's office to fix it. The secretary of state is Texas' chief election officer.

This story was updated on March 2 to include information from Heider Garcia.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Updated: March 2, 2022 at 2:32 PM CST
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.