Site Map
Voting News
Contact Us
About Us

is NOT!
associated with

Early voters report obstacles at polls   (TX)

THEODORE KIM and IAN McCANN  The Dallas Morning News   29 October 2008

One polling station in Collin County improperly turned away scores of voters. Workers at another asked voters for more identification than the law requires. Party officials elsewhere have quarreled over the validity of some votes.
As record numbers of early voters flock to polls across North Texas, it has not been all smooth sailing. In some cases, election workers appear to have applied voter laws inconsistently.

Election officials say they have responded to the complaints, which have been observed at a handful of polling places in Collin, Denton and Rockwall counties. They also say voters in those counties and beyond have seen few problems overall.

Even so, the hiccups are the latest chapter in a politically charged battle over voting that has played out nationally. The irregularities also foreshadow broader confusion for Tuesday's election, when record masses, including many new voters, are expected to cast ballots.

"If poll workers are going outside the law or don't know the law, it creates the problem of unequal treatment," said Daniel P. Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University. "The likelihood we'll see scattered problems is probably 100 percent."

Among the problems reported so far during early voting, which ends Friday:

•At one polling station in Collin County, election workers demanded photo IDs from every voter.

•At another Collin County station, voters whose names were not listed in the state's new electronic voter database – even some with registration cards – were turned away and told to come back later.

•In Denton County, Republican and Democratic officials are at odds over how often poll workers should issue provisional ballots.

•In Rockwall County, a dispute over the treatment of some voters at one polling place has drawn scrutiny from both political parties and the elections administrator.

No major hitches have been reported at polling stations in Dallas and Tarrant counties. Marjorie Moffitt, a poll worker in Arlington, said voting there has been "flowing smooth as silk."

In Collin County, the treatment of voters as reported runs counter to state and federal law.

"Even though judges have been taught differently, some seem to be saying, 'I'm going to do it my way,' " said Dan Dodd, chairman of the Democratic Party of Collin County.

Patty Seals, deputy elections administrator in Collin County, said the county has warned some election judges about their practices. All poll workers are now complying with the law, she said.

Making the voter list

Disagreements over voter registrations and ID requirements have made headlines elsewhere, particularly in presidential battleground states.

Partisan clashes over voting procedures and eligibility have occurred in battleground states like Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin. Indiana and Georgia have new laws requiring all voters to present a government-issued photo ID.

Both parties, meanwhile, have assembled teams of lawyers, should major disputes materialize in any state.

Voter issues have so far received less scrutiny in Texas, which is expected to vote Republican for president. Still, officials from both parties here say irregularities, however small, could play a role in deciding lower-profile contests, such as county commissioner and district judge races.

"We need to make sure the election process is honest," said Dianne Edmondson, chairwoman of the Denton County Republican Party.

Much of the strife stems from different interpretations by states and party officials of a federal law that Congress passed to streamline voting after the Florida recount in 2000.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 sets standards for voter systems and registrations and mandated that every state create and maintain computerized voter lists.

States have gradually rolled out those standards. Tuesday will mark the first time some of the new measures, including the computerized voter lists, are tested in a presidential election.

Process at the poll

In Texas, the process works like this: Election workers ask voters for their registration card or other ID, such as a driver's license, passport or utility bill. Workers then check their names against a registration list.

If voters' names are absent, poll workers are instructed to check with the county elections administrator to determine whether and where a voter is registered. If there is trouble, one option is a provisional ballot, which allows anybody to vote but does not guarantee that it will be counted.

A board later reviews the ballots to determine voters' eligibility. By law, Texas election judges are partisan. The majority party recommends the presiding judge in each precinct, while the minority party chooses an alternate. The presiding judge s poll workers.

Randall Dillard, a spokesman for Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade, said he has seen consistent application of voter laws.

Yet communities vary slightly in what procedures they use, especially when poll workers face voters who are not on voter lists.

Anne Vela, an election judge in Carrollton, spent much of Monday calling the Denton County election office about new voter registrations. "It's easy to make that call," she said.

However, Don Alexander, Denton County's elections administrator, said he encourages workers to use provisional ballots when registration disputes arise.

Dallas County elections administrator Bruce Sherbet said registration problems are often resolved well before a voter shows up on Election Day. While election workers are trained in the law, what they say to voters can vary.

"We don't have a script for them to read," Mr. Sherbet said of his poll workers. "Every one of them is going to explain the situation to the voter a different way."

Staff writer Jeff Mosier contributed to this report.

Previous Page

Election Problem Log image
2004 to 2009


Accessibility Issues
Accessibility Issues

Cost Comparisons
Cost Comparisons

Flyers & Handouts

VotersUnite News Exclusives

Search by

Copyright © 2004-2010 VotersUnite!