HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court has ruled the provisional votes cast in Harris County after 7 p.m. should be separated and not counted, for now.
Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum said the provisional votes will not be thrown out. Instead, they will be set to the side until further instruction by the courts.
At about 6 p.m., an hour before polls were scheduled to close, a judge ruled Harris County voting locations could stay open an extra hour because of several issues at polling sites earlier in the day.
Those Harris County voters who got in line after 7 p.m. cast their ballot normally but had to put their paper ballot in a sealed provisional ballot envelope instead of inserting it into the scanner machine.
Tatum reported that all provisional ballots were going to be tabulated separately inside the Central Count station at NRG Arena and processed throughout the night until the Texas Supreme Court ruled the votes be separated and not counted.
The process of tabulating provisional votes takes a bit longer than normal ballots, according to Tatum.
"There is, what we call a qualifying process," Tatum said. "We have to ensure that the voter who actually cast the ballot provisional ballot was in fact registered to vote ... and then we have to go through the process of separating the provisional document from the ballot to then scan the ballot into the scanners."
Provisional votes are tabulated separately from the regular votes just in case the votes are challenged in court.
"Provisional votes themselves don't have to be cured in a normal sense that we know of curing ballots, but what that means is as those votes are tabulated, if by chance that court's order is challenged and another court says that we can't actually count those ballots, then we know exactly where those ballots are. We know how they were counted. We know where they were tabulated on their separate V-drive," he said.
Provisional ballots can be offered during early voting and Election Day, according to the Texas Secretary of State's website. A provisional ballot usually is needed when the voter went to the Texas Department of Public Safety to obtain or update a license but the registration information was not transmitted to the Secretary of State or if there was an error on the list of registered voters. Provisional ballots are also used when the voter's registration application is smudged or contains poor writing.
Tatum said there were a handful of late starts at various polling locations due to several issues, including a missing key to open the voting machines at the BakerRipley on Navigation Boulevard voting location, which caused a five-hour delay.
Tatum said he hoped the additional hour gave voters an opportunity to cast their ballot if they were unable to do so Tuesday morning.
"We are reviewing the circumstances surrounding these late starts and will provide more information as soon as available," Tatum said.
How will the extended hour affect results?
Early voting results will be posted after the polls close at 8 p.m.
Tatum said the late start will cause an hour delay with judges closing the polling locations and then getting the results to the election center.
As election day results come in, they will be released. Tatum said results should be released every hour.