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Midland County, TX will open a sealed ballot box discovered last week – with no indication if it is from the most recent election or an older one. The Midland Reporter-Telegram has more:

A new ballot box was discovered during Thursday’s ballot count when an employee was organizing shelves and discovered a sealed box. It has not been determined if the box was from 2018 or the most recent election, said County Attorney Russell Malm.

He filed a court order to open the box at 8 a.m. Monday in the Commissioners’ Courtroom at the Midland County Annex. He said the Elections Office would know immediately if it was from 2018, because the only paper ballots used, then, were ballots by-mail.

If it turns out that it is from the most-recent election, which is still being investigated, Malm said those ballots will be counted.

Due to statutory notice requirements, the ballot box opening could not take place Friday as originally planned.

Midland County Election Office officials provided a copy of the order to open the ballot boxes Friday morning. The order also states that the Elections administrator shall open the remaining ballot boxes and conduct a manual count of the total number of ballots in each box, “using a sufficient number of volunteers to complete the task in one day, or as soon thereafter as is possible.

The court order also calls for access to the digital copy of the ballots from the Nov. 5 elections and to compare these ballots to the physical ballots contained in the boxes. This will be done by or under the supervision of “qualified representatives of ES&S (Election Systems & Software).

The missing box could shed light on an 820-vote discrepancy between electronic vote totals and physical ballots from a recent bond election.

Needless to say, this is an extraordinary situation; even the County Attorney notes the effect the entire series of events has had on the election staff:

[Malm] said the Elections Office has been working “extremely hard” to find the issue with the election, and the county is close to seeing the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Although I don’t really want to answer for what their morale is. Obviously, they are disappointed, and it’s been extremely stressful on them … They take this as serious, if not more serious than anybody else, because they’re not just voters or taxpayers; they are also the people who do this job, and they take great pride in it. Obviously, it’s not fun for them.”

“This is a very-unique case. Many elections have problems that are unique, but this one, in itself, is also quite unique.”

The box will be opened later this morning, shedding some light on the continuing drama in Midland. Here’s hoping the mystery of the new ballot box – and the large vote discrepancy – can be resolved soon. Stay tuned …