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2016-11-10

Bandera County voters voice early voting issues

By Steven James BCC Editor

County residents have been voicing concerns ever since Monday, Oct. 24 about issues they experienced during early voting.
Even though these complaints were of differing natures, several people’s main concern dealt with how they felt about the effectiveness of the Hart Intercivic eSlate voting machines. When using an eSlate machine, a poll worker types in a four-digit Access Code. The voter then navigates the electronic ballot, using either the wheel or the arrows at the bottom of the machine.
The wheel is used to highlight selections, while the arrows help the voter go from one section of the ballot to another. When a voter highlights the name of a candidate he wants to vote for, he may click the “SELECT” button to make his selection. A “HELP” button is also available at the bottom of the machine.
When a voter is done making his choices, he can click the “CAST BALLOT” button to officially cast his vote. Directions on how to use the eSlate are to the right of the machine, and poll workers are present to answer questions and address concerns voters may have.
“The election [administrator] told me the election engineer said “If you vote straight party ticket, and then you go down there and you change something, it knocks off the president and vice president option”,” said Busbee’s Bar-B-Que and Catering Owner Joe Davis, who noticed his selections for president and vice president were erased after choosing candidates in the local government section of the ballot. “Why didn’t it knock off all the other options? There’s something wrong with the machines, and I’m very upset.”
Davis was concerned the problems with the machines could cause voter fraud, an extremely rare occurrence, in Bandera, as well as surrounding areas, because of intentional rigging of the eSlates.
Voting issues have occurred all around the U.S. since early voting began.
Voters who chose straight party tickets seemed to have the most issues, according to multiple news outlets. Similar to what happened with Davis, when most of these voters chose the straight ticket option, their selections for president and vice president somehow went to candidates for other political parties.
If a person does not carefully review his Ballot Summary Page, what he tried voting for may not actually be what gets counted.
“The most important thing is to double-check your own work, and if you don’t think you’re comfortable or have a question, please come ask us,” Bandera County Assistant Elections Clerk Gillian Grimes said. “I think it’s a high-stakes election, and every voter is feeling how important their vote is, and sometimes that nervousness translates to the actual voter action on their own.”
Grimes, who praised the usability of the eSlates and said neither she nor any of her fellow Bandera County election officials had heard any complaints about the machines, also encouraged people to report incidents or concerns to election officials as soon as something bad or discomforting happens. She said if voters had concerns, and waited too long to report them, she and other officials may not be able to remotely verify these complaints, including voter fraud and the professionality of poll workers, which were also complaints Bandera County residents had.
She also said by law, individual counties can choose the voting mechanisms they want to use for an election. Paper ballots are available to voters who prefer them, but not on request at the booths. Residents must meet certain deadlines to cast their votes with one of the various types of paper ballots.
“Because Bandera County had already determined that they were using the machines, by legal prescription, we’re not able to just offer paper ballots instead because someone feels uncomfortable, unfortunately,” Grimes said. “Voters are encouraged to come by, ask us questions, ask for a sample ballot.”