This is, and I cannot stress this enough, batshit crazy.
The Potter County Republican Party plans to conduct its own election during the Texas primary on March 1, independent of the county election administration. People voting in Republican races on Election Day will cast hand-marked ballots that will be hand counted, which the party believes to be more secure. Experts say the move will introduce a higher risk of fraud, confuse voters, and likely result in legal challenges.
“This introduces a lot of potential mistakes and it also introduces opportunities for fraud,” said Christina Adkins, the legal director of the Texas Secretary of State’s elections division. “The candidates on this ballot really need to think about whether this is how they want their election run.”
The plan is the brainchild of county GOP chair Dan Rogers. He said repeatedly that turnout in the county, home to Amarillo, had gone down since the county introduced voting machines and voting centers in 2015. “The more they try to make it easier and add gadgetry, it goes down,” he said. This is false. Historical voting data shows no significant change in county turnout patterns since the introduction of the technology.
Rogers said he “doesn’t know” if the county’s machines are error-ridden or not. The county currently uses Hart InterCivic direct-recording electronic machines that do not produce a paper ballot but will be modified next year to comply with a new Texas law that requires such a printout. He said voters do not trust the technology and would prefer to vote on paper. Asked for survey data to support this claim, he said he didn’t need it, and instead recounted a conversation with his mechanic. “I know my voters,” he said.
On Dec. 3, Rogers sent out an email titled “Potter County (Amarillo) takes the first step toward real election integrity” to Republican Party chairs in every Texas county, encouraging them to copy his plan. “We would like to see other County Committees follow our lead and we will help any County Chair interested in having real secret ballot elections,” he wrote. He has received no interest.
Chris Davis, the election administrator in Williamson County and vice president of the Texas Association of Elections Administrators, learned of Rogers’ plan from an email forwarded by the local party chair. “This will end badly,” Davis said, predicting extreme voter confusion. He said his county party has no desire to move in that direction and he is unaware of any county making a similar decision.
While neither the state nor the county can stop Rogers from carrying out this plan — the parties are entirely responsible for the conduct of primary elections on Election Day — officials at both levels of government have repeatedly warned Rogers that his move will confuse voters. By state law, the county must manage early voting and vote by mail, which is how local administrators anticipate most county voters will cast their ballots. The county will use voting machines, as required by county statute. Typically a minority of voters do present in person on election day and thus, under Rogers’ plan, would be subject to entirely different rules and would have to report to different voting locations than they have in the past.
While Potter County uses a voting center model — relying on epollbooks and voting machines to allow voters to cast ballots anywhere in the county — Rogers has decided that the party will use only paper pollbooks and that voters must report to their assigned precinct.
Melynn Huntley, the election administrator for the county, said that Rogers may “alienate his own voters” with the plan. “Suddenly, they are going to show up to vote and realize it’s not in the same location,” she said. “Running a quality election is hard for even the most experienced counties.”
The lack of epollbooks also means that election workers will have no means to ensure that individuals who cast a ballot in the Democratic primary are not also casting ballots in the Republican primary. “One of the biggest problems with this is that it’s throwing the doors wide open to voter fraud,” said Huntley, an assertion Adkins agreed with.
Rogers acknowledged he would not be able to check for double voting but said he doesn’t believe anyone will try. “They’d be charged with a felony,” he said. He acknowledged there would be no way to remove these individuals’ votes from the total count after election day. “I trust people,” he told me. “You are the one that doesn’t trust people.”
I could quote the whole story at you, because it just keeps getting more and more insane. Rogers seems to think that it will take 30 minutes to hand-count all the ballots and that there will be no errors. He’s dismissive of any potential violations of federal law that require ADA-compliant voting machines. You can infer what I think from the embedded image. Good luck and godspeed to you, Republican primary voters of Potter County. Maybe vote for a better party chair next time.
(This story was reprinted in the Houston Chronicle. I hope they run it in the print edition, too.)