The Dumas and Sunray bond measures have officially passed, according to Moore County Clerk Brenda McKanna. "We have all provisional ballots resolved, and the eligible late ballots were received, and the official count was resolved Tuesday afternoon," she said.
The official count for the Dumas Independent School District's $107 million bond is 1,190 for and 1,171 against. The bond passed by a margin of 19 votes. Only 27.68 percent of eligible voters opted to participate in the election.
The tally for the Sunray Independent School District's (SISD) $9.5 million bond election was 156 for and 160 against in Moore County and, according to Sherman County Clerk Laura Rogers, 11 for and 6 against in Sherman County. SISD includes part of Sherman County. The total for the two counties was 167 for and 166 against. The bond passed by one vote. Of the 1,064 Moore County voters eligible to vote in the SISD bond election, only 331 or 31.11 percent chose to do so.
Because the election was so close, provisional ballots became an issue. According to McKanna, provisional ballots are ballots cast by people who show up to the polls without a picture identification or who did not register to vote or registered at the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), or, for some other reason, do not appear on the voter rolls at the polling place. By law those voters have to be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, and the county tax assessor-collector later determines whether or not those voters were, in fact, eligible to vote and whether or not their vote should be included in the total. "Voters have rights, and you have to abide by the election law," said McKanna. "Provisional ballots came into effect in 2007 when the (federal) Help America Vote Act went into effect. It means 'no voter left behind.' You can't refuse a voter the right to vote. You have to offer every voter a provisional ballot … the voters who voted without ID have six days to go to the tax office and prove their ID. If they do, those ballots count. I turn them all (provisional ballots) over to the tax office, and at that time the tax office does their investigation to see why they were left off the roll… and if they find that it was an error on the voter registrar's part, then we count them … you know they can register through DPS now … and if they find it (the registration) wasn't received by the voter registrar, but they did register through DPS, (it is counted). There are all kinds of scenarios."
There were 10 outstanding provisional ballots in the DISD election and one authorized late ballot. Because of the 20-vote unofficial margin they could not affect the ultimate outcome, though resolving them did alter the final tally slightly. In Sunray, the story was different. There were two provisional votes in Sherman County outstanding. They could have altered the outcome, but McKanna said she learned Tuesday that they would not be included in the total, so the one-vote margin of victory for the bond measure ultimately held up.
McKanna pushed back against criticism that the process for certifying the election took too long. "Counting" the provisional ballots is a more involved and time consuming process than the word implies. "We have to follow the election law," she said. "Our hands are tied until that time period expires for those ballots that are out there with the IDs (six days)." The Veterans Day holiday extended the process an additional day. McKanna says county clerks also receive guidance from the Texas Secretary of State in carrying out elections. One message sent recently stated: "You cannot canvas your election until the early voting ballot board has convened and all provisional ballots, all military, overseas, and other authorized late-arriving ballots have been counted or otherwise resolved. The last day to receive a ballot from an overseas or military vote is Tuesday, November 12. The last day for the early voting ballot boad to convene and count provisional and overseas ballots is Thursday, November 14, 2019."