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Video of Texas poll staffing shortage is from March primary

November 8, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: A video of a Republican voter being turned away from a Texas polling place due to staffing issues shows fraud happening during the 2022 midterm election.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Partly false. The video was filmed during the state’s primary election in March, not the November general election. While it does show staffing issues that temporarily impacted at least one voter at one location in Harris County, Texas, it is not an example of fraud. A Harris County election official told The Associated Press in March that both the Democratic and Republican parties notified the county that they had staffing shortages. In Harris County’s split primary, each party was responsible for staffing their respective election.

THE FACTS: The video recirculated as voters hit the polls during the general election on Tuesday. Social media users are sharing the months-old clip to drive the misleading claim that staffing shortages amount to fraud, or that it shows a voter being turned away in the Nov. 8 race.

In the clip, which also circulated widely during the primary, a voter can be heard speaking with a poll worker, asking: “You said the Republican side is not what?” The worker responds: “I don’t have staff, so we are closed right now.” The voter then says: “So for the Democrat, I can vote Democrat then?” The election worker replies: “You can vote Democrat but not Republican, I’m sorry.”

The election worker in the video also made clear that the voter could go to another precinct in the district to cast their vote.

“You can vote #Democrat but not #Republican ” WTF is going on here! #cheating #Midterms2022,” wrote one Twitter user who shared the video on Tuesday.

Another user replied to a tweet announcing that polls had opened in the U.S. on Tuesday morning with a link to the old footage.

But the video is from the March 1 primary, not Tuesday’s general election.

The video was filmed at the Hardy Senior Center in Harris County, where Houston is located, Leah Shah, spokesperson for the county election administrator’s office, told the AP in March.

The official confirmed that because only one GOP election judge was currently at that location, the election worker captured in the video “did not think they had enough staff to operate.” Both parties had notified the county three days prior to the primary that they were having challenges sufficiently recruiting poll judges, Shah said at the time.

Unlike a general election, in which the parties share election workers, Harris County had a split primary. This means that two elections were happening separately but at the same time at each polling location, one for the Democratic Party and one for the Republican Party.

Each party is responsible for staffing their side of the polling location, Shah said. While staff from one party can choose to help the other side if there are issues, they are not obligated to do so. There must be both a Republican and Democrat election judge at each polling location for both sides to be open to voters. If a voter arrives at a polling location and there are no workers representing their party, they could be turned away, Shah said.

Even so, voters could go to another precinct in their district — so long as it is adequately staffed by their party — to cast their vote.

Shah said resources, including voting machines, were allocated based on historical voter turnout data, meaning each side could have a different number of machines or workers depending on how many voters were anticipated.

A spokesperson for the Harris County GOP told the AP on Tuesday that they had no further context on the video.

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Associated Press writer Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas, and Ali Swenson in New York contributed to this report.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.