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Monday, May 08, 2006 

Texas' Faulty Elections: Will Democrats Finally Wake-Up?

Lost in the mist of the immigration debate, a train wreck has occured through out the nation. Texas recently had a major primary mared with failures and this month some Texas cities are preparing for some local elections and they can't get their voting machines or the software for their machines and are forced to revert to emergency paper ballots.
Bexar County's electronic voting machines — for which it paid $8 million — will be unplugged when early voting starts Monday in local elections because the equipment supplier failed to deliver the necessary software, according to county officials.
The company that is causing all this commotion - Nebraska-based Elections Systems & Software.

Back on March 29, Texas Secretary of State sent an "urgent memorandum" to all county clerks, that many officials had not yet received the electronic programming for the primary runoff elections to be held on April 11.
In a March 29 "urgent memorandum" to all county clerks, elections administrators and county chairs, the secretary of state's office noted that many officials had not received electronic programming or paper ballots for Tuesday's runoff.

"We recognize that this kind of service from our certified voting systems vendors is completely unacceptable and disturbing," the memo states. "We will be pursuing all appropriate remedies from a state level that are available to us."
But it is important to look at the result after the Texas election and the problems that occurred during the elections. ... continued below ...

This election season, this was the first time Texas held elections with electronic voting equipment throughout the state.

Election night problems:
  • Galveston County - (Hart eSlate and eScan) - New voting system, same problems Link
  • Jefferson County - (ES&S iVotronic) - Voting woes mar debut of electronic ballots Link
  • Robertson County - (ES&S AutoMark) - Robertson County vote tallies delayed Link
  • Tom Green County - (Hart eScan) - Machine used for early voting, Election Day could be at fault Link
  • Webb and Bexar County - (ES&S) - 'Glitches' get blame in Webb Link
  • Webb County - (Counting problems – ES&S) - Cuellar defeats Rodriguez in congressional grudge match Link
  • Webb County - (Programming error) Election uproar - Link
But, nothing can compare to what happened in Tarrant County, the e-voting system from Hart InterCivic added 100,000+ votes.
An undetected computer glitch in Tarrant County led to inflated election returns in Tuesday's primaries but did not alter the outcome of any local race, elections and county officials said Wednesday.

The error caused Tarrant County to report as many as 100,000 votes in both primaries that never were cast, dropping the local turnout from a possible record high of about 158,103 voters to about 58,000.

But elections officials did not look into the discrepancies that night because they were dealing with a new system, new procedures and some new equipment, said Gayle Hamilton, Tarrant County's interim elections administrator.

"We didn't think there was a problem," Hamilton said. "We should have stopped right then.

"But we didn't question it at that time."
Republican Party Chairwoman Stephanie Klick also said she was skeptical of the results when she saw that some GOP races had 114,000 voters turning out to cast ballots.

"That would have been a record turnout," she said.
On March, 13, 2006, Brad Blog did an exclusive report on a Hart InterCivic company whistleblower:
according to a Hart InterCivic company whistleblower -- who also happened to have later worked as an "election programmer" in Tarrant County -- the problems with Hart InterCivic's systems in Tarrant County, Texas and elsewhere are not new at all. Not by a longhorn long shot.

Letters sent by William Singer of Fort Worth, a former Hart InterCivic "technical specialist" and Tarrant County election worker, to state officials back in July of 2004 warned of exactly such problems. The letters,...reveal that serious problems and concerns of possible election system meltdowns were already apparent with the Hart machines in Tarrant County long ago. However, the warning letters were all but ignored by both election officials and even state law enforcement officials.
On July 29, 2004 in a letter sent to Texas Secretary of State, Geoffrey S. Conner (complete letter to Conner) after Singer witnessed problems in the March 2004 primary in Texas, he opened his letter by summarizing the main concerns:
Re: Complaint on conduct of election of March 9, 2004, held in Tarrant County, and the associated activities of that office in it's preparation for that election, including inappropriate, unethical, and possibly illegal activities committed by the Office of the Tarrant County Elections Administrator (Robert Parten), and the two election vendors which service Tarrant County, ES&S and Hart Intercivic.
Further, he claims that given Tarrant County, Texas' extremely close relationship with Hart -- they are apparently one of Hart's very first customers -- they'd not have hired Singer if there had been a previously soured situation with Hart.

"Would Tarrant county have hired me to be their Election Programmer if I had been fired by Hart?," Singer asked.
On March 21, 2006, San Angelo's Standard Times reported that Texas Sec. of State stopped the recount of printed ballots from the Hart Intercivic "eSlate" machines during a mandated election recount.
On orders from the Texas Secretary of State’s office, the recount for the Tom Green County Court-at-Law No. 2 race has been suspended midway through its second day.

About 1:30 p.m. today, county Republican Chairman Dennis McKerley stopped the recount after workers found discrepancies of as much as 20 percent between what was counted Monday and what was reported Election Night.

"We’re having some trouble with the electronic equipment," McKerley said.

Apparently, McKerley said, new electronic voting machines provided by vendor Hart InterCivic are not printing ballots for every vote cast on the machines. During recounts, which must be done by hand, the machines are designed to print out separate ballots for every vote.
The following events also took place in the month of March:
Email from Tarrant County, TX: 'Democracy is Dead Here' and the Democratic Party helped kill it. Link

Conservative Republican starts eating his own - a tell all on former Republican Texas Supreme Court Justice Steve Smith details the "irregularities" that took place in a press release. Link Link and Link

In April, Raw Story, ran a story about Karl Rove and his ties to a Mark "Thor" Hearne, Executive Director of a Republican front group, American Center for Voting Rights, who also happened to be the National General Counsel for Bush/Cheney '04 Inc. Brad Blog has more on Hearne.

Also in April, Brad Blog reported that Texas Director of Elections Ann McGeehan had sent a statewide letter to all Election Officials authorizing them to create emergency paper ballots for the state's upcoming May 13 Runoff Elections.

Several early county and local elections are occurring now, but it would be interesting to know what will happen after the election on May 13.

Next up, election shenanigans in Webb County. Did Henry Cuellar really win? Stay tuned.

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