Friday, October 10, 2014

For want of a stamp, the election was lost

All apologies to James Baldwin William Shakespeare whomever.  The following account is a transcript of the news report shown on the 10 p.m. newscast of Houston's ABC affiliate, KTRK, last night.  They don't have their own video posted to the website yet, so this one from Lane Lewis will have to suffice for now.

Hundreds of mail-in ballots that are being mistakenly held for days at a downtown post office will now be delivered to the Harris County Clerks Office.

The downtown post office was holding the ballots for insufficient postage, something they are not supposed to do.

"We found a glitch. And we're going to expose this," said Harris County Democratic Chairman Lane Lewis.

Lewis found out about the ballots and offered to pay for the postage shortage. Almost all the ballots were short on postage by just pennies.

"These votes whether Republican or Democrat, I don't know, but they need to be counted," said Lewis.

A postal worker told Eyewitness News the shortage was about $57. The worker said for that price, Lewis could take the ballots, put the stamp on himself and return them to the post office. That's against policy and illegal.

"We could have walked out of here with those ballots. But we did not," said Lewis.

"That is totally irresponsible on their part," said Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart.

Eyewitness News learned the county clerk's office has an account with the (Houston) postmaster, so any shortage should be billed to his office. Post office workers said they knew nothing about an account. They were ready to send the ballots back to the voters.

"By procedure and by law, deliver the ballots regardless of the postage on those ballots," said Stanart.

So then... it's not his fault, it's the post office's fault.

Eyewitness News learned Stanart made his own mistake. The return ballot states the postage is 69 cents. But it should have been 70 cents. Some ballots were being held for just a penny. Stanart said he didn't know about the change in postage.

"I personally didn't. I would have to talk to my office if they do know that," said Stanart. 

Uh oh.  So whose fault is it again?  There's no "Buck Stops Here" plate on that man's desk. This is how a person takes personal responsibility for their mistakes.

Dionne Montague, a USPS spokeswoman, released the following statement to Eyewitness News:

"We have policies in place to ensure absentee balloting material, received in the mail, is handled promptly. We do not delay delivering ballot materials even when they are received with insufficient funds or no postage. Our policy is to attempt to collect the postage due from the election office at the time of delivery or at a later date. This policy will be reinforced with all of our employees."

Stanart said the problem has been worked out, and the ballots will be soon delivered to his office.

There might be some chain-of-command issues regarding the way those ballots were handled, just from what I observed in the video.  And Stanart's deer-in-the-headlights, wide-eyed blinking on the videotape are as solid a tell as you'll ever see in any poker game.

It's been well-established for some time now that Stan Stanart is just in over his head.  After four years in office he still can't get the basic things right.  The Houston Chronicle choked in their endorsement of this race, and everyone -- I'm looking at you, Republicans -- needs to fix this mistake in government.

Ann Harris Bennett, everybody.  For the gracious sake of no more embarrassments in the County Clerk's office.  More mailed ballot news from Charles.

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