Texas election integrity questioned

Members of a group of election integrity advocates Wednesday claimed the state is allowing some counties to ignore an important election law this year. State officials responded by saying the claim was mistaken.

When a vote is made on an electronic ballot machine in Texas a paper receipt of that action is not immediately provided. But when polls close on election day- a printed tabulation is done on site- by election officials. It’s done before electronic equipment is sent back to a central processing location for a final count.

Wednesday a group of election critics lead by Former Austin Council member Laura Pressley claimed A top manager with for the Secretary of State is granting waivers allowing some counties not to do the printing right after early voting.

"The promises we were made for back up records are not there and they've never been there,” said Pressley.

Pressley has questioned the election process ever since she lost an Austin city council race two years ago. She lost her lawsuit challenging the results, although that ruling is being appealed.

Pressley and her supporters believe election results can be rigged by not doing an immediate paper print out of ballots cast after early voting and before the general election when the final count is made.

" You now have pulled it out of the view of the public, also hacking can go on, after the equipment leaves the building, as it is being transported, or when it gets to the county and they get around to printing the tape,” said Pressley.

Alicia Pierce with the Secretary of State's office said Pressley and her group are mistaken in applying the printing rule to early voting.

"We are following the orders of state law as it is written, and as it is outlined in Chapters 65 and 66 of the state election code."

Despite the objections from those who believe voting rules are being violated, election officials say printing a vote count, immediately after early voting, could actually unfairly influence an upcoming general election.

“The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t go to the polls because you have any fear or apprehension that the system might not work for you,” said Pierce.

State officials went on to say they believe the waiver Pressley and her group are against does not involve early voting or electronic ballot machines. The Secretary of State has issued waivers from manual counts in previous elections to counties. But those waivers are for counties that still have paper ballots and tabulate votes using optical scanners.

The fear that electronic ballot machines can be hacked was also dismissed by Travis County Clerk  Dana DeBeauvoir.

"The way we actually vote, voters vote, and the way we tally votes is not connected to the internet, so it is very difficult to have any aggregation point to affect it. It’s not going to happen that way,” said DeBeauvoir.

The following is a statement sent to FOX 7 from the Travis County Clerk’s Office;

In response to inquiries related to a press conference held by Laura Pressley, County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said, "Ms. Pressley is raising the same concerns that she did in Pressley v. Casar, her unsuccessful challenge of her failed race in the 2014 Austin City Council Election.  In that case, the trial court after a hearing, entered a 'No Evidence Summary Judgement' dismissing the case."

The matter is currently on appeal at the 3rd Court, and we look forward to their affirming the trial court judgment.  Because the case is still under appeal, we can provide no additional information about the case at this time.

The Travis County Clerk remains committed to conducting an election that complies with all applicable laws, and the interpretations of those laws provided by the Secretary of State, in his role as the Chief Elections Officer of the State of Texas.  To that end, we believe that all of our procedures, which are developed to assure the integrity of the election, do just that.

We look forward to the record voter turnout that is projected for the November General Election, and remind the voters to vote early!

Ginny Ballard CERA
Public Information Manager
Travis County Clerk - Elections Division