Officials facing nightmare from new voter registration software
Polk County Enterprise, May 2007
LIVINGSTON — Early voting in the May 12 elections is set to begin Monday, but local election officials say a new statewide voter registration system is simply not working.
Voters are strongly encouraged to bring their yellow registration card, according Polk County Tax Assessor-Collector Marion A. “Bid” Smith.
During Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting Smith said he has not been able to print a voter list for any jurisdiction in Polk County. Smith and County Clerk Barbara Middleton have been able to load a list from two day’s prior to the deadline onto handheld computers to assist voters who arrive at the polling sites without their certificate.
The Texas Secretary of State’s office contracted with IBM and Hart Graphics in December 2005 to develop a web-based system that would comply with the federal Help Amercia Vote Act of 2002, Smith said.
The new system, the Texas Election Adminisration Management System, is far more restrictive than the software it’s replacing, Smith said.
The system requires tax office staff members to enter the 911 address, as opposed to a descriptive address that has been acceptable in the past.
Smith’s office also had a lot of trouble getting the new system to accept the 11,000 Escapees who vote in Polk County and use private mailboxes at the RV center.
“If a voter was in the system before the conversion, there’s no problem,” Smith said.
But anyone who registered or changed an address shortly before the March deadline may not be in the system, Smith said.
Voters can help make balloting go smoother by bringing their yellow registration card and some patience when they come to vote, Smith said.
Smith and County Clerk Barbara Middleton were able to obtain a list from March 8 or 9 that has been loaded onto handheld computers at each precinct.
That list should be fairly complete, officials said, except for voters who made changes just before the deadline.
“If somebody registered in the last two days, hopefully they have a certificate,” Smith said.
The Secretary of State’s office promised to assist the 240-plus counties that have switched to the TEAMS system, Smith said.
They said they would have extra support staff on duty from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 to noon, Smith said. But other tax assessors who have called the special 866 number say that number is not being answered.
“When you call the regular 800 hotline number, they tell you to call the 866 number. When they were told it wasn’t being answered, the Secretary of State’s staff member responded, Of course not. They’re all in the war room solving other problems,” Smith said.
Smith said his staff is only able to update about four records a day. One rural registrar uploaded a file that was still processing nine hours later.