Nov 29, 2022 - News

"This American Life" covers Tarrant County election integrity

An election official demonstrating a voting machine

Not all heroes wear capes. Photo: Gordon Dickson/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Tarrant County elections administrator who was once accused of contributing to voter fraud found a way to make peace with skeptics on Election Day.

Driving the news: Heider Garcia's patient and transparent approach to running the election is featured in the latest episode of "This American Life" and in a story by Votebeat.

Why it matters: Democratic voters were more confident than Republican voters that this month's elections would be administered well, and GOP distrust of the polling system has deepened since the 2020 presidential election, according to Pew Research Center.

Zoom out: The latest election didn't go off without a hitch everywhere in Texas. The Harris County District Attorney and state officials are investigating what went wrong on Election Day in the county, including late openings of poll sites and a paper shortage for ballots.

Flashback: In 2020, the Tarrant County elections office received a flood of public information requests after President Joe Biden narrowly won the historically Republican county, per Votebeat.

  • Garcia received death threats and was accused of participating in voter fraud in Venezuela and the Philippines during the time he worked for Smartmatic, an election technology company.

What happened: This election was different. Poll watchers spent the day in regular communication with Garcia, who took their calls and disputed rumors of poll closures.

  • His candor led poll watcher Aubree Campbell to say Garcia "makes other election administrators look like idiots," per Votebeat.

What they're saying: Heider says he gives everyone his cellphone number and would rather answer calls to dispel rumors before they spread.

  • "There's a choice here to make: to allow yourself to be intimidated and pushed to the side by lies and accusations, or to stand firm and say, 'I have nothing to hide and I'm not gonna run anywhere.'"

Go deeper: Listen to Act One of the episode or read the full Votebeat story.


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