Jefferson Couny voters could vote anywhere

Carolyn Guidry

“Madder than hell” is how Beverly Hatcher described voters told they were at the wrong polling locations when they showed up to vote in past Jefferson County elections. The Jefferson County Commissioners Court conducted a hearing Tuesday, July 23, to solicit comments from the public on a proposed plan to implement a countywide polling place program for the Nov. 5, 2013 election. Hatcher, a Beaumont resident and poll worker, said she has witnessed first-hand the mayhem of Election Day at the Port Arthur Public Library on Ninth Avenue. “We would almost have to go to the driveway where you turn into the library and would almost have to let people run over our feet to stop ‘em to ask, ‘Are you sure this is where you are supposed to sheets that would tell them where to go, but by then they were so angry they could care less.” Sheila Sachitano, said.

Democrats of Southeast Texas, said it wasn’t uncommon on Election Day for 100 voters to be turned away by noon because they showed up to the wrong precinct. Jefferson County Clerk Carolyn Guidry added that in the 2012 presidential election alone, 96 provisional ballots were rejected because they were cast at the wrong precinct. Moving forward, the county is taking action to try and prevent future voter frustration. Guidry said she believed countywide polling places and new technology that the county purchased and implemented during the May 11 election would help prevent further polling frustrations in coming elections.

“If the (countywide polling location) plan is implemented, a voter on Election Day would no longer be required to vote in his or her precinct polling location, but could vote at any countywide polling place (Vote Center),” an information handout from the court meeting states. 

“Our office has been interested in doing countywide polling for a long time, but because we did not have the resources and connectivity to have real-time voting on Election Day, we were not eligible for the program,” said Guidry. “With the implementation of the EA tablets this last May election, that now makes us eligible for the program.” 

According to the Election Administrators website, the EA Tablet is the first tablet-based electronic pollbook on the market that follows election industry standards. It can scan driver licenses or voter ID cards; users can search by last name, first name, date of birth, or voter ID manually; they can collect, save and archive signature pages along with voter history. The EA website also states that the tablet features continuous real-time backup of voter history to a micro SD card, street search capabilities and it is the fastest tablet processor on the market. 

County Judge Jeff Branick asked Guidry if there would be any safeguards in place to prevent the same voter from voting at several different locations in Jefferson County. 

“Unless they have a jet to go from one location to another, that would be highly impossible within Jefferson County,” Guidry responded. “With the new EA tablet, we have an administrative capability where we can look and see where people are voting, and instantly, those votes are logged into the system.” 

Tuesday, commissioners approved submitting the application to participate in countywide polling to the Secretary of State’s office. The next step is for Secretary of State John Steen to approve the application. 

“If the Secretary of State approves the application and we are allowed to use Vote Centers for the Nov. 5 election, we will again solicit comments after the election to gauge voter opinion and discover how we can improve the process,” the handout states. 

“We certainly hope that this is going to improve voter access, decrease voter confusion, and we’re hopeful that, as we move along, we will be able to reduce the number of precincts and consolidate those a little bit to save money in the election process,” Branick said.