McLennan County and Texas election officials are encouraging voters to review their ballot summaries before hitting the final “cast ballot” button on the Hart eSlate voting machines the county uses.
The Texas Secretary of State issued an election advisory stating a number of people had reported the machines appearing to change their straight-ticket selection. However, the issues are likely the result of voters attempting to make a selection before a page is fully loaded, inadvertently deselecting their desired candidate, according to the notice.
“It is important when voting on a Hart eSlate machine for the voter to use one button or the other and not both simultaneously, and for the voter to not hit the “Enter” button or use the selection wheel button until a page is fully rendered,” the notice states. “A voter should note the response to the voter’s action on the keyboard prior to taking another keyboard action.”
A lot of the problem is due to eagerness, said Jon Ker, McLennan County Republican Party chairman. The system allows a voter to go back and choose a different name if one is chosen in error.
“When people go in to vote straight party, all they should do is check to see if all the correct boxes down ballot are highlighted red. If they say, ‘Gosh I just want to make sure I’m voting for this guy or that gal’ and selected it again, it deselects that candidate,” Ker said. “I’m a computer dinosaur. I’m the old school kind. But I at least know in the electronic world if you hit it twice you just deselect it.”
Anyone unfamiliar with the county’s voting equipment can try it out at the McLennan County Elections Administration Office in the Records Building, 214 N. Fourth St., suite 300, in Waco.
People tend to want to “emphasize” their vote by selecting it numerous times, County Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe said. She has not gotten any calls about the matter this year but has in previous years, Van Wolfe said.
“That’s why we’re telling all the voters review that summary page so you make sure the choices you want are on there,” she said. “There’s three pages on the summary for this election because it’s a long election. Once you hit ‘cast ballot’ the ballot’s in the box and we can’t get it back.”
There are a lot of first-time voters this year, and it does not help that the machines are “older than dirt,” said Mary Duty, McLennan County Democratic Party chairwoman.
“If that little flag doesn’t wave, you are not done,” Duty said, referring to the screen that appears after a ballot has been successfully cast.
Duty said officials in both party offices are continuing to educate voters and are putting out calls for volunteers to serve at the polls.
Duty and Ker said they have heard of minor matters at vote centers but nothing major.
“We want to have a nice happy election,” Duty said.
Ker said the biggest issue he’s seen is the lines. The First Assembly of God Church early vote center location is “unbelievably busy,” he said.
“That’s a good thing that people are getting out there and voting,” he said. “That’s what our constitutional system is all about. I’m glad to see a lot of turnout.”
A total of 23,180 McLennan County residents have cast a ballot during the first four days of early voting, 16.6 percent of the 139,837 registered voters.
Early voting for the Nov. 6 midterm continues through Nov. 2.
Turnout in past November elections, including ballots cast early and on Election Day:
- 2016: 80,544, 59 percent
- 2014: 44,982, 35 percent
- 2012: 75,698, 59 percent
- 2010: 55,588, 44 percent
- 2008: 81,012, 62 percent