Human error with programming ballots reported: WilCo Elections Department

Update: 18 votes go uncounted in Williamson County, race now separated by one vote

About 20 people in Williamson County lost the chance to vote on a proposition during early voting because a county employee omitted the question from the ballot.

As of Thursday afternoon, the proposition is failing by one vote.

The question missing on the ballot was for a sales tax increase in Emergency Service District 9 near Leander.

The county caught the omission three days into early voting and fixed it for remaining voters.

But 18 people had already cast a ballot without the question and lost their right to vote on the issue.

Those missed votes could have been the difference between passing or failing the proposition.

The county said two pending mail ballots, and three provisional ballots are left to count.

The results will come on Tuesday.

Then, the county sends the numbers into Emergency Service District 9, so that it can canvas the results.

Original story:

After three days of early voting, Williamson County officials said they realized hundreds of voters are missing a proposition on the ballot.

The item left out for some voters is a sales and use tax proposition. It would raise taxes on purchases by 2 percent at locations not already at the state's maximum sales tax rate of 8.25 percent.

The error impacts about 900 people in Emergency Service District 9, which is near Leander.

"To you, I say, I'm sorry," said Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell.

Williamson County officials apologized Thursday for the error.

"There are things we can't get wrong, and in this instance, we got it wrong," said Gravell.

In 2021, voters approved incorporating about 900 people into a district near Leander.

Those residents should be voting on a sales and use tax proposition this election, but the county said the question is missing on the ballot.

"Doesn't that make you scratch your head, right?" said Gravell. "How does something like this get missed? The way that it got missed is because somebody didn't do their job."

County Judge Bill Gravell said a county employee is liable. Although he wouldn't say who did it, he did add that person no longer works for the county.

"There's nothing worse that can happen to a voter than for you not to be able to vote in an election that you should," said Gravell.

Out of the roughly 900 people who are impacted, 18 have cast a vote.

"For those 18 voters, they won't be afforded the right to vote on this proposition," said Gravell.

Starting Friday, any residents missing the proposition will receive a second ballot.

Voters will turn it into a separate box and counting machine.

"The integrity of the election has not been compromised," said Ken Campbell, the legal counsel for ESD 9.

With a little more than a week until election day, the county asked residents not to let the error sway them from voting.

"Our polling places are safe," said Williamson County Sheriff Mile Gleason. "They're free for everybody to go to, and I don't want to instill any fear in anybody. Please go exercise your right to vote."

Williamson County said it was a voter who notified them of the omission.

Officials add they are reviewing all other emergency service district elections in the county, but so far this is an isolated incident.

In addition, voters can go to their website to review their sample ballot prior to voting.

A phone bank at 512-943-3820 has been set up to answer questions for impacted voters regarding the ESD 9 sales and use tax election.

An Emergency Services District (ESD) is a local government agency created by a vote of the public to provide fire protection and/or emergency medical services (EMS) in specific areas in unincorporated Williamson County. 

Information on the ESD 9 sales and use tax election is available here.