Our new Secretary of State is taking a crack at fixing the state's messed up election management system.
[New SOS Phil] Wilson's office wants to simulate the load that the Texas Election Administration Management system, or TEAM, will handle during a presidential election cycle. He's asking counties to use the system to log voter records at the same volume they would during the real thing.
"We need all 254 counties entering voter applications, calling and stressing the system at the same time, so we can see what will happen during a presidential election," said Galveston County Tax Assessor-Collector Cheryl Johnson. "We could have 110,000 or 120,000 people vote (in the county), which is twice what you had" in the last midterm election.
Johnson was among a group of county officials around the state who were vocal critics of TEAM beginning soon after its January launch. Counties hired extra workers and had employees work odd and longer shifts to log voter records ahead of the May election -- and there were still reports of delays at the polls.
In voter registration offices, transactions involving just a few records at a time that would normally take seconds to process were taking up to half an hour.
John Keel, the state auditor, now has his staff examining TEAM. He said the audit was scheduled as part of routine procedure before anyone was aware of the scope of the problems. But reports of those problems may result in different testing approaches by his staff, he said.
It's not clear how much the problems have cost the state financially. Keel said his office hasn't arrived at a figure, and he won't discuss details of the audit until a conclusive report comes out, probably in October.
How bad is TEAM? This bad:
One of the problems that affects even offline counties stems from TEAM's street indexing program. [Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul] Bettencourt said Harris County officials were shocked when they realized it had never occurred to TEAM's designers that a place like Houston was adding new streets all the time.
"That was a programming function that they had not thought of at all," Bettencourt said.
As a result, he and Johnson said, the system was unable to assign some voters to the proper precincts.
She said no one has been able to agree whether the problem is inherent in the system, or is the fault of county workers who input the data.
"From our standpoint, it's at their end; from their standpoint, it's at our end," she said.