Anatomy of an Election Gone Wrong
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
November 14, 2002
I always take great pride in our county striving to achieve national status as the very best in as many areas as is possible. Likewise I cannot as your Commissioner allow us to degrade to a national status as the very slowest election-tabulating county in the nation! There is no excuse for the failure of this election to take 30 hours to count.
First of all the difficulty of finding responsibility is not made easier by the number of Commissions and subcommittees that are involved in the success or failure of any election. Yet we do have an Elections Administrator who is where the buck stops. Ultimately, Commissioners Court must assume final responsibility.
Key Voting Administrative Commissions
The Election Commission only hires and fires the Election Administrator, period! This is a five-member board composed of the County Judge, the County Clerk, Tax Assessor-Collector and both party chairs. They need three votes to hire and four votes to fire the Elections Administrator as per the Election Code. However, the Court has the sole responsibility to authorize the existence of an Election Commission.
The Election Board has the oversight over the General Elections only. This is a five-member board composed of the two party chairs, the County Judge, the Sheriff and the Elections Administrator who is the Chair.
The Primary But Not Only Culprit
What appeared to be the Achilles heel of this election is the two-page ballot. Processing two pages as well as dealing with voter intent insofar as that portion of the voting public that choose to vote straight party on each or both of these ballots slowed the tabulation incredibly. It is this Commissioner's opinion that one or two of the four or five national vote vending companies that print ballots mislead our own Elections Administrator as to the ability to put the entire election on one ballot. That our Elections Administrator chose not to stand them down on this point, is regrettable.
Unsung Heroes of the Election
The County staff of the Elections Department, Housing and Human Services and Public Works and Information Services did a yeoman's job. Public Works and Housing and Human Services built and installed thirteen ADA ramps for disabled voters. Workers from these agencies not only attended work as usual at 8:00 a.m., they immediately after work at 5:00 p.m., went to the Records Facility where they constructed the ramps. Others still, went to the County Warehouse (our attic) on Steves with no heating, no air conditioning, no potable water available, to break down a half a million ballots with 154 different ballot styles and apportion them to their proper early voting sites.
This is a brief summary and not the entire story. The story is unfolding and will continue to do so with your participation. In fact I am typing this up as the Commissioners Court is concluding its inquiry into this process. Please let me know of your opinion on this critical process.