Breckenridge Texan

First day of early voting in Stephens County sets record

First day of early voting in Stephens County sets record
October 15
15:50 2020

By Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

When early voting kicked off on Tuesday at the Stephens County Courthouse, the county set a record for the number of people to vote on the first day.

According to Stephens County Tax Assessor Christie Latham, who serves as the county’s election coordinator, there were 396 people who voted on Tuesday, the old record was 319 votes, which was set during early voting for the 2018 General Election. By around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, she said, there had already been 172 people that voted and a long line extended to the door.

By the end of voting on Wednesday, 700 people had voted early in-person. That total includes Tuesday’s 396 voters and 304 voters on Wednesday.  Also by Wednesday, 146 mail-in ballots had been received. Including in-person and mail-in votes, there have been 846 votes cast, which is 14.9 percent of the 5,678 registered voters in Stephens County.

Early voting will continue this week through Friday, Oct. 16, and then again on Oct. 19-23 and Oct. 26-30. Early Voting takes place at the Stephens County Courthouse from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Since this is a joint election between Stephens County and the City of Breckenridge, two 12-hour days of voting are required. Those times will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29, and Friday, Oct. 30.

On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, those registered voters who have not voted in Early Voting or via Ballot-by-Mail will be able to vote at their specific precinct polling locations.

Short voting delay Tuesday afternoon

During Tuesday’s voting, there was a short voting delay for about 20 minutes that occurred around 2:30 p.m.  A technical glitch caused the poll workers’ Poll Pad, which is the electronic the device that is used to verify each voter’s eligibility when they sign in to vote, to be temporarily locked out of the verification system.

According to Latham, the glitch was caused when a technical support person for the county’s vendor, KNOWiNK, that sells the Poll Pads, was downloading a file for an internal test and downloaded an incorrect file. The mistake temporarily locked the poll workers at the courthouse out of the system for about 20 minutes.

Latham said KNOWiNK’s tech support people immediately fixed the file problem, and Stephens County was back up and voting within 20 minutes.

“The only bad thing was a few people got impatient and left and will have to come back again during the early voting in the next three weeks,” Latham said.

To compare the situation to the days before computers, when they used printed voter rolls to verify voter election eligibility, Tuesday’s glitch was as if the book of voters’ names was misplaced for about 20 minutes.

“We couldn’t qualify anybody because we couldn’t find the book to say whether they were qualified to vote in this election or not,” Latham said, using an analogy to describe the problem. “As soon as we found the book, we got back to voting. That’s oversimplification, but that’s basically how it works.”

Did not affect ballots or vote tabulation

Latham said it’s important for citizens to understand the technical glitch at the sign-in tablet did not affect the ballots or vote tabulation in any way. She said the two systems are completely separate from each other and are not in any way electronically connected.

“It didn’t change anything,” she said. “It just disabled it for about 20 minutes is all it did.”

She said, at end of the day, they had a list of everybody who voted, which was posted on the Texas Secretary of State’s website state the next day.

The Breckenridge Texan reached out to KNOWiNK for comment on this story through their media contact form on the company’s website and had not receive a response by publication time.

Stephens County has been using electronic voter sign in and verification for more than a decade. The Poll Pads are separate from the new electronic ballot boxes that were installed this year. She said they have not had any technical problems with the new ballot machines.

For more details about the new electronic ballot boxes, click here to read the Breckenridge Texan article, “Stephens County to use new, more secure ballot boxes for upcoming election.”

For more details about the election, including links to the Candidate Profiles for the Sheriff’s race and the City Commissioner, Place 2, race, click here to read Tuesday’s Breckenridge Texan story.

(Above and top photo) Stephens County voters were lined up down the hallway of the courthouse on Tuesday for early voting in the General Election. Early voting continues for two more weeks, and Election Day will be Tuesday, Nov. 3. (Photos by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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