Cynthia Brehm, who heads Bexar County’s Republican Party, criticized the Bexar County Elections Department’s handling of the March primary election and demanded that the election be redone at a county commissioners meeting Tuesday.

“Not a recount,” Brehm said. “Throw it out. Bexar County citizens deserve better than a system that is faulty and flawed.”

Brehm, who will face candidate John Austin in a May runoff election for her second term as party chair, pointed to the software issues that caused a delay in early voting result publication.

“I can tell you right now – I’ve already talked to the people above me that I don’t have the confidence in this election at all,” Brehm told reporters Tuesday. “And my constituents don’t trust it.”

Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said the comments made by Brehm and Michelle Barrientes Vela, a former constable and Democratic sheriff candidate, were “misinformation.”

“I stand behind this election,” Callanen said.

Vela also addressed commissioners Tuesday and asked to meet with them over concerns about the election’s integrity.

“We’re looking for an outcome of fairness,” Vela said. “Does that mean a recount? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps even a re-election. But we won’t know until we sit down with elected officials that sat before us to look at what issues can we look at.”

Commissioner Kevin Wolff (Pct. 3) said until Election Systems & Software – the company that makes Bexar County’s voting machines, also known as ES&S – and the county’s IT department determine exactly what caused election result delays, it’s hard to make assumptions. But he said he has “complete confidence” in Callanen and her staff to give an accurate vote count.

“I also expect her to hold ES&S’s feet to the fire and make sure these ‘glitches’ don’t happen again,” Wolff said. “The good news is there are numerous backups and double-checks in addition to actual hard copy ballots now. When there’s a problem, we’ve got the processes and procedures to ensure things are counted correctly. If that means we have to wait a little longer than usual … I’m willing to pay that price to make sure what we report is correct.”

Vela was one of four challengers who ran against incumbent Sheriff Javier Salazar in the Democratic primary election. Salazar won the election with 53.7 percent of the vote while Vela came in third with 12.2 percent. Vela said Tuesday that she did not trust those results.

“I’m going to make an assumption,” she said. “I can’t say for sure … but the assumption would be that looking at the hard work and dedication that some of these campaign teams were out there doing, including my own, it would have been impossible for some of these candidates that have gone off into a runoff to achieve such a high percentage of turnout and votes.”

Vela had asked the Bexar County Democratic Party for a recount, but her petition was denied because she did not provide the $73,500 required for a recount, party chair Monica Alcántara said Friday.

Citing accounts she heard from prospective voters, Vela said some people were turned away from polling sites although she was not able to share which exact locations. She dismissed the idea that her call for an investigation of the election results came from her missing the runoff in the sheriff’s race.

“It’s not sour grapes when you have the community coming forward saying what happened: ‘We came out, we were turned away,’” she said. “That’s not sour grapes, that’s the community saying there’s a problem.”

Now, both county parties must canvass – or verify the accuracy of – election results in their respective primaries. The Democratic Party is scheduled to canvass on Tuesday evening, while the Republican Party will meet Thursday. Those canvassed results are then sent up to the state parties to verify. Brehm said she asked the Secretary of State about how to proceed with canvassing results, and specifically asked what would happen if she refused to sign off on the county party’s vote results, or if she could sign off and challenge the results later.

“It is my job as county chair to represent people honestly and fairly,” Brehm said. “For me to sign off and say, ‘OK’ when I have questions? No way. This impacts all of us. Not a few people. We must maintain election integrity.”

Callanen said she was unsure what would happen if the Republican Party of Bexar County did not send canvassed results to the state party. She did say that recounts happen frequently; the last one happened in Leon Valley.

Though Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said he thinks ES&S and IT need to examine and document what caused delays in vote results on Super Tuesday, he thought there was no need for a recount.

“I’ve been through a lot of elections,” he said. “[The early vote results were] only an hour [delayed] or something, and it’s not a big deal that you’re a little late.” 

The final vote count will change from posted Super Tuesday results, Callanen said. Around 1,400 votes would be added to the final vote count, including mail-in ballots from civilians and military members, as well as provisional ballots. That report will be published after both the county parties finish canvassing their results.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.