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Suspense list snafu

Apparently, the “poll books”, which list all 1.9 million registered voters in Harris County, are missing those who have moved and not updated their addresses. This is an issue because you’re allowed to vote at your old polling place for up to four years.

Suspense list voters are supposed to be marked so poll workers can identify them and update their addresses.

But because the 319,000 suspense voters are not noted, poll workers will have to refer to new lists being printed this week by the county tax assessor-collector’s office, which also serves as voter registrar.

That extra step could lead to longer lines at the polls just as the county kicks off its new $25 million eSlate electronic voting system.

An electronic voting machine the size of a legal pad, eSlate has been used only for early voting since the county bought the system last year. Some officials, such as Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Sue Schechter, are concerned the system could confuse voters and lead to delays at the polls.

Some fear the problem with the poll books, which were prepared by a private company hired by the county, could exacerbate those problems.

“It’s an unneeded complication,” said Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt. “Anytime you have a complication in procedures, you’re going to increase the likelihood of a problem.”

This is probably not that big a deal. I never did update my address after I moved in April, and all I had to do when I voted early was tell the poll worker my new address and sign a form.

Doesn’t mean I don’t find this story annoying, though:

Votec Corp., a San Diego company paid $70,000 a year by the county, was supposed to ensure the information in the poll books was accurate. Although Votec was given accurate information, [County Clerk Beverley] Kaufman said neither the company nor her office caught the error until after the books were printed. She said they were more concerned with ensuring that all voters were listed and that the books were broken down properly for each precinct.

“We’re certain (Votec) has learned its lesson, and we know we’ve learned ours,” she said.

Kaufman said there was not enough time or money to print up new poll books after the error was discovered. That’s why officials decided to have Bettencourt’s office generate a new list.

Bill Bilyeu, president of Votec, said the problem will not be repeated because his company will work directly with Bettencourt’s office to maintain the voter roll.

“Learned its lesson”? What’d you do, make them sit in a corner and write “I will not forget the suspense list” a hundred times? Sheesh.

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One Comment

  1. molly w. james says:

    I did not vote in the last election. I have my voters registration card. Am I listed on the poll book? My Number is 10938496