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Paper ballots on the menu

The county’s plan for dealing with the loss of all of its voting machines includes some low technology.

Despite a fire that destroyed Harris County’s voting machines Friday, County Clerk Beverly Kaufman said she intends to keep all polling places open with replacement machines on Nov. 2.

Commissioners Court approved Kaufman’s emergency plan this afternoon to spend $13.6 million to buy 2,325 electronic voting machines and supporting equipment.

“Your polling place is going to be open early and on election day. You’ll be able to vote conveniently as you’re accustomed to doing,” Kaufman said afterward.

Kaufman’s request included 1.4 million paper ballots, which will be distributed to polling stations as a backup in case a shortage of machines leads to long lines.

As PDiddie notes, it was reported by Mary Benton that paper ballots will be made available to “anyone who asks” for one. The statement about keeping all polling places open is to address the concerns of Democratic elected officials, who wrote a letter to the Justice Department about the possibility of precinct consolidation and fewer voting machines in minority areas.

I feel like the immediate concerns have been addressed, and I’m reassured that everyone involved is going to do the right thing. There’s still a lot of uncertainty, though – how many machines will we have, will election judges know what to do with the paper ballots, what happens if the fire marshal makes a ruling of arson – and I don’t see that getting cleared up any time soon. I’d still like to know why it is that all the machines were stored in one place, and why we didn’t already have a written disaster recovery plan. Imagine how screwed we’d be if this had all happened a month from now. We’d better take the lessons we learn from this very seriously, that’s for sure. Hair Balls has more.

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5 Comments

  1. what doesn’t add up is they reported 10,000 machines destroyed, but they only approved buying 2300? I know they are going to borrow some, but nearly 8000? And what are the paper ballots going to do to the election? I imagine it is going to take longer to tally, are we going to have another hanging chad election lawsuit? There are plenty of people with enough money to spend if they want to be sore loosers.

  2. They weren’t going to need 10,000 machines for this election. 2300 would work out to a bit less than three per precinct polling location. Not great, but doable, especially if enough people do vote early or absentee. I’d like to see more than that, and I suspect there will be at least one more purchase approved. I bet that was all they could get at this time.

  3. Thanks charles, do you think they will lift some of the restrictions on absentee ballots? I thought they had to be mailed to an address other than where you are registered at and it had to be a certain distance away. I think they should let people send in absentee ballots even if they are home to lighten the volume at the locations.

  4. Byron – Dunno about that. I believe it’s a matter of state law, so I don’t know if the county clerk has any discretion. It’s a good question, I’ll see what I can find out.

  5. I think you are right, maybe an emergency legislative session to call for a waiver or something? I think this would help lessen the problem.