May 29, 2007
On the wrong TEAM

You may recall that some counties experienced problems with the statewide voting records system during early voting for the May 12 elections. As a result, some of them are now abandoning that system for one that is used by Harris and 27 other counties at their own expense instead.

Critics of the system, known as Texas Election Administration Management, or TEAM, say former Texas Secretary of State Geoffrey Connor made a mistake by accepting the higher of two final bids for an unproven system.

Connor says the critics are wrong. "I remain confident that we made the best decision we could at the time with the information that was available," Connor said.

Enacted in response to allegations of fraud during the 2000 presidential election, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires that states have an interactive centralized list in which election workers can easily determine whether a person is eligible to vote and to prevent citizens from being registered in more than one location.

Two counties, Hidalgo and Tarrant, recently confirmed they were leaving TEAM to contract with VOTEC, the vendor that Connor rejected in a close contest. The defections raise the number of counties abandoning TEAM to five, and others are considering a similar move.

Connor chose a $13.9 million bid from IBM and Austin-based Hart InterCivic instead of a $13.1 million bid by Science Applications International Corp. and VOTEC.

Connor said the bids were not the only factors he took into consideration in the decision he made in 2004, nor was he obligated to go with the lowest bidder.

He said states across the nation were in the same predicament as Texas in being compelled to deal with technology that had not been tested to comply with a new federal law. Some states modified existing statewide systems while others built new ones.

"It wasn't just about the money, it was about selecting the best product," Connor said. "It was about technology, innovation and leadership."

But Connor's recollection of events puts him at odds with one of his strongest critics, Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt.

"If it's his discretion, he made a poor choice," Bettencourt said. Bettencourt blames Connor, saying he passed over the low bidder with a proven system already in use by Harris County for a proposal from a bidder lacking experience in voter registration systems.

I certainly don't consider Paul Bettencourt to be an unbiased source, but as Harris has never experienced the kind of problems that other counties saw this month, he's got the better of the argument. Databases can be tricky beasts, and especially for something like this it's really important to get it right. I don't see why TEAM can't be made to work - it's not like IBM is some fly-by-night outfit, after all - but someone needs to light a fire under the current Secretary of State to make it happen by next March.

UPDATE: More from Racy Mind.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 29, 2007 to Show Business for Ugly People

Hello Charles

very good commentary on the 8 seats for 2008 i appreciate your insights and enjoy reading. I really appreciate the time you take to study the demographics of each race you do a great job

Bill Metzger
Murphy, Texas

Posted by: bill metzger on June 9, 2007 10:41 PM