Monday, August 30, 2010

Harris commissioners OK $13 MM for more e-Slates... and paper ballots *updated*

I was unable to be present, so this post pieces together some eyewitness as well as media accounts of this afternoon's emergency gathering of county commissioners to address concerns surrounding the November election in the wake of last week's warehouse fire which destroyed all of the county's voting machines.

The $13.6 million approved will cover 2,325 voting machines and support equipment, and Beverly Kaufman indicates she has offers of "fifty here and a hundred there" from other elections administrators around the state, but not nearly enough to replace what was lost in last Friday's inferno. So while she pledges to "protect everyone's rights" by not consolidating precinct locations, she will also have 1.4 million paper ballots on hand "as a backup".

KPRC's Mary Benton, in this video report, holds a copy of a sample paper ballot. The two-page ballots will be available to "anyone who asks" for one, according to Benton.

Texas Watchdog's Twitter feed from this afternoon's meeting is here, yet Lee Ann O'Neal's report makes no mention at all of paper ballots.

State representative Garnet Coleman was present and publicly underscored concerns about voter suppression simply by virtue of fewer locations, fewer machines, and longer lines. Kaufman's pledge, as mentioned in the first graf, is to satisfy all those concerns.

I'll update this post with more as it comes around.

Update: Harvey Kronberg adds the following -- desperately in need of proofreading -- related to Garnet Coleman's public remarks at the hearing.


Consolidating voting places, long lines and other other measures could reduce minority participation, they say

Sixteen Democratic lawmakers today signed a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calling on the Department of Justice to "assist and oversee the development of new plans for conducting the upcoming elcections (sic) in Harris County."

They continue, "While we are heartened by the stated intention of local officials in Harris county and across the state to condut (sic) a fair and open election in November, we are concernece (sic) that some of the options for conducting the election could have an adver (sic) impact on voter participation...."

The lawmakers note, "...In recent elections, there have been controversial actions on the part of the Harris county officials that administer and oversee voter registrations and elections."

The entire letter can be found here.

Also the Houston Press' Hair Balls ...

For all those who pine nostalgically for cardboard privacy boxes and paper voting ballots, oh boy is this the year for you.

At an emergency meeting of the Harris County Commissioners' Court on Monday, County Clerk Beverly Kaufman said paper ballots will be used to help compensate for the 10,000 pieces of electronic voting equipment that went up in flames last week.

The paper ballots will be the same as the ones regularly used by mail-in voters, and will be two-pages long for the November 2 election. Kaufman is urging residents to vote by mail and use the early voting period, which begins October 18.

8/31 a.m. update: Burka shares a letter from a friend and Harris County Democratic election official, and Glenn Smith expands on the conspiracy theory. Go read both.

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