Bexar elections official: 'Wonderful turnout' for constitutional amendment election

Learning curve for new voting machines blamed for late-night returns

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SAN ANTONIO – In this year's constitutional amendment election, Bexar County saw nearly triple the turnout compared to 2017, according to preliminary numbers released by officials Wednesday.

Bexar County elections administrator Jacquelyn Callanen said 106,634 people cast a ballot for the Texas constitutional amendment election, calling it a "wonderful turnout." 

According to the Bexar County elections returns website, 56,601 voters turned out to vote Tuesday, while 42,721 voted early and 7,312 cast an absentee ballot. Bexar County has more than 1.1 million registerd voters, meaning the turnout was 9.57%.

Related: Nov. 5 Election Returns

This year's election turnout was impressive when you compare it to a similar election in 2017, when 38,801 ballots were cast overall in Bexar County. On Election Day, 17,989 voters turned out, 20,659 voted early and 153 voted absentee. The voter turnout was 3.7%. 

A Texas constitutional amendment election in 2013 resulted in 57,147 overall voters casting a ballot. On Election Day, 25,901 voters turned out and 31,246 voted early. The voter turnout was 6.32%. 

Elections on odd-numbered years generally have significantly lower turnout than even-numbered years because there are not state or national legislative races.

Callanen said she was happy with the turnout and that allowing voters to cast ballots at any polling location -- a new rule moving forward -- and new technology made voting more accessible but also led to some headaches in reporting the results.

Callanen said that in the past the election returns wrapped up around 10:30 p.m., but the final count for Tuesday's local elections didn't come in until after midnight.

Related: New voting machines allow Bexar County voters to cast ballot at any polling site

Callanen attributed the tardy results to a learning curve with the new machines, which were used for the first time.

She said election judges faced tabulating challenges due to a card system associated with the ExpressVote system. The machines have electronic screens, but the votes are recorded on paper ballots instead of individual voting booths. The ballots are then fed into another machine that will actually tabulate the votes.

Some polling sites also ran out of the paper ballots, which forced voters to wait until more paper ballots were delivered to the sites. Callalen blamed the shortage on a higher-than-usual voter turnout.

Callanen said Tuesday's elections was a good practice session for next year.

"We're ready for 2020," she said.

WATCH: Bexar County elections administrator news conference

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About the Authors:

Kolten Parker is digital executive producer at KSAT. Previously, he worked at the San Antonio Express-News and the Texas Observer.

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.