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Electronic voting still under fire

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

State and Federal rules regarding electronic voting continue to concern Caldwell County leadership as the commissioners try to decide what is best for the voters.
Last month, Election Systems and Software, Inc. (ES&S) notified the county that they will no longer support the ballot scanner currently used in all Caldw

ell County elections. Because the scanner will not be supported, the Commissioners were asked to make a choice between either spending upwards of $40,000 on the scanner recommended by ES&S, or pushing citizens toward an all-electronic voting system.
Both choices proved a cause for concern for the Court. Budgets continue to get tighter while the County is forced to raise taxes, and the Commissioners did not plan for the expenditure during the last budget cycle.
On the other hand, all-electronic voting systems often do not provide a paper-trail, and many Caldwell County voters are resistant to electronic voting.
“We have many voters who like their paper ballots,” said election coordinator Mary Vicky Gonzales last month during a discussion of the issue. “Even though we are required by law to have the electronic machines, we see that most of the voters are still using paper.”
During the regular meeting of the Commissioners” Court on Monday, County Judge H.T. Wright expressed another concern.
“There are already 27 states that have voluntarily adopted a paper trail audit and are moving away from the electronic machines,” he said. “We need to watch this carefully and see what the Legislature does, and we need to be careful and slow in deciding what we”re going to do about this scanner.”
ES&S has committed to servicing the County”s existing equipment for the May 12, 2007 election, but has said that they will not continue to do so after that time. In other business, the Court decided to add two full-time positions to the Caldwell County Clerk”s Office.
County Clerk Nina Sells made the request last week, explaining to the commissioners that two part-time clerks had been working full-time hours for some time.
“As our revenues and responsibilities increase, it”s been hard for us to keep up, because our staff hasn”t increased since I”ve been County Clerk,” Sells said.
Additionally, new rules regarding documentation imposed by the Texas Legislature have created a backlog in the office.
Although he approved the addition of the full time positions, Commissioner Tom Bonn expressed concerns about the hours the office keeps.
“With this addition, will it be possible for you to be open during the lunch hour,” he asked. “I”m told that some people coming in from out of town or trying to do things on their lunch hour would like to see that happen.”
Sells said that the additional staffing would still not allow for the office to be open during the lunch hour, but that she was moving toward that goal in the future.
“I think that the only county office open during lunch right now is the tax office,” she said. “And I don”t want to put the clerks in the position that anyone is there alone, because there are too many things for one person to do. But I know that it would be more convenient for us to be open during lunch, and that”s definitely something that I”m working for.”
In brief Court news:
Wright recognized County Veteran Services Officer Larry Corpus for a complimentary letter received from an area veteran”s daughter. The writer, Alice Strein of Austin, applauded Corpus for going “above and beyond” to help her father, who is a resident at the Golden Age Home.
Because of the recent rains and the promise of more to come, they opted not to reinstate the outdoor burning ban.
The County paid bills in the amount of $44,385.49, which included only $850 in indigent legal defense.
The Caldwell County Commissioners meet on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse.

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