Party-switch glitch puzzles Sabine voter

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Allison Patton’s not sure how it happened, not absolutely, but there’s no doubt in her mind it did: her ballot switched from straight-Republican to an all-Democrat ticket at the voting box Tuesday.

Puzzled when she caught the mistake, Patton brushed it off to being distracted, holding on to her 4-year-old as she exercised her right to vote in Liberty City. Catching the swap before pressing the ‘Cast Ballot’ button, Patton adjusted her choices, double-checked the result and finished up.

In the end, “It all seemed to go through correctly when I went to cast my ballot,” she noted later that afternoon. “I didn’t report it because I thought it may be my error but I’m pretty careful about things like that...”

As the hours passed, Patton found the incident even more troubling: Tuesday saw similar reports being posted from around the state, flying across social media. Rumors, perhaps; glitches, maybe; some debunked, some unchecked – whatever the truth, it's enough to make Patton suspect she came this-close to losing her vote. She still accepts it might have been her mistake, but it's all the more reason, Patton says, for voters to check their choices carefully.

“Like I said, I’m not 100% sure it wasn’t (an) error on my part but I’m almost certain it was not,” she wrote in an electronic message Tuesday afternoon. After all, “I had my 4 year old with me so I thought at first maybe I just goofed somehow but after seeing more and more posts about it happening to others I’m thinking otherwise.”

Gregg County Elections Administrator Kathryn Nealy is confident it was a simple, all-too-common voter error, spinning the selection wheel the wrong way at the wrong time. She credits Patton for being diligent and double-checking her selections – it's not hard to make a mistake.

"The only way that vote can change is if you change it," Nealy said simply, lamenting the "scare tactics" and stories being spread that are undermining voter confidence. If there's a doubt, she added, go ahead and clear it up at the booth: "They have the capability to see the review and they have the capability to fix anything."

That said, the rumors continued to gain traction throughout the day.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been sowing doubts for months, claiming the 2016 election is “rigged” in favor of his main opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton. With the start of early voting this week, the GOP candidate's rumors and accusations bore fruit, accurate or not, in Texas. Reports are similar – and, in some cases, essentially identical – alleging straight-ticket votes glitched, flipping from GOP to Democrat, from Trump/Pence to Clinton/Kaine. Some incidents were blamed on user-error. At least one, in Randall County, was confirmed: according to news reports, the ballot was canceled. Reportedly, officials there couldn’t replicate the error.

By mid-afternoon, “Randall County, TX” was a trending topic on Facebook as online outlets (a large portion leaning Conservative) spread the allegations. Snopes.com weighed in, the left-oriented fact-checker chalking the issue up as “Mostly False.”

Meanwhile, local election officials say they’re fielding numerous calls – “You wouldn’t believe it,” one unidentified Gregg County employee said – from voters worried their ballots won’t count or, worse, they’ll count for the opposition.

No, Nealy said: "This machine is not going to flip your vote. The only person that can flip your vote is you. You just have to be really careful how you're going to turn that wheel."

Patton’s not shouting from the rooftops, but she has shared her story as a cautionary tale.

“My main thing is if it wasn’t my fault I just want people to be aware it may happen and to double check before submitting,” she concluded.

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