Katy resident upset after provisional ballot not counted

- If you registered to vote at the Texas Department of Public Safety, will your vote count? One Harris County voter found out it might not. Now the questions are, what happened, and how many other voter registrations have been lost?

"If this could happen to me it could happen to anybody," says Katy resident, Chantel Wooley, holding her voter information documents.

Wooley received a letter from the Katy school district saying that her vote in the May school board election didn't count.

"I got the letter that said I actually wasn't eligible to vote, and that my provisional ballot didn't count in that election," Wooley told Fox 26, "So my vote was worthless."

Provisional ballots are used to record a vote only when poll workers can't verify eligibility. They're only critical in close races, like the one in Katy ISD. The winner of the election was decided by just 6 votes.

"The letter didn't have correct information for disqualifying my vote," Wooley says. It said I registered on line and that wasn't a valid way to be registered, when I actually registered in person at DPS when I got my driver's license in December."

Wooley not only knew she had registered, she had the receipt proving it.

"We need to look into the cause of this and make sure it doesn't happen again," says J. R. Harris, Director of Compliance at the Harris County Tax Assessor/Tax Collector's Office.

Katy ISD properly checked with the county about Wooley's provisional ballot.

"We received the provisional affidavit," Harris says. "We reviewed it. We checked with DPS. DPS gave us a response that the voter had registered on line and that's not an acceptable form of registration."

But Harris went on.

"Everyone did everything properly. It's just that the basic information from DPS was incorrect."

Harris County discovered the DPS information was wrong only when Fox 26 showed them Wooley's receipt.

At the time our story aired, the DPS had not explained how that mistake was made, or why Wooley's December voter registration was never forwarded to the county.

But DPS Press , Tom Vinger, did reply to our inquiry late Wednesday. Vinger says, while the mistaken response was human error, DPS did send Wooley's registration application to the Texas Secretary of State's Office the very next day.

"The department does not receive confirmation from the SOS when a voter registration is completed or denied," Vinger writes. "You would need to contact the SOS, or the county, to determine if an individual was or was not ultimately registered to vote."

So, there are still questions to be answered by SOS.

"We thank you for bringing this to our attention," Harris says. "We hope some good can come out of it."

What should be alarming to everyone, is that Wooley's rejected vote is one of thousands across the State of Texas, directly traced back to registration problems at DPS and the SOS over the past several years.

Wooley's case shows that complaints, and even a lawsuit, have not fixed the problem.

"This is a great reminder that if you registered to vote at the DPS, and within 30 days you don't received a voter registration certificate from our office, call our office at 713-274-VOTE. Or go to our website," Harris says.

The website is HCTAX.net. There, a quick search will tell you if you're registered.

"I just hope people check into their registration, especially if you've just transferred here," Wooley says, "because I had every bit of understanding that I was registered to vote."

The presidential election is only a few months away.

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