By Deanna Kirk — Corsicana Daily Sun
November 17, 2018
While early voting in the November 6 mid-term election in Navarro County went smooth as silk, on the actual day of the Election, it was anything but.
Daniel Teed, Navarro County Elections Administrator, has had a week to ponder the events of that day, and hopes to offer explanations about what went awry that day. “I have come to respect a lot of people in this process,” Teed said. “Though it’s been a difficult year for elections in Navarro County, the Judge and Commissioners, Roger (Francia), ES&S, Danda (Parker), the Election Day office staff — most especially Annette Kennedy, the pollworkers, the ES&S Support personnel, and I have hung in there and kept working to face the challenges. Every time we’ve called with equipment problems, Danda has responded.”
Additionally, Eric Meyers with the Office of Emergency Management, went way above the call of duty to provide radios to the office and all the pollworkers for this election, without which communication, regarding all the challenges would have been very difficult. He also relayed messages and helped coordinate some of the support needed.
Danda Parker, former Elections Administrator in Navarro County, left there to work for Elections Systems & Software, the company that sells and distributes the voting equipment now used by the county. Teed was hired as the new Elections Administrator after the March Primary.
Teed said that more than a dozen times when they called, Danda has responded, and much work has been done to the equipment. However, as it’s had so many problems and they have have worked so many different ways to fix it, the company is now planning to just replace the pieces of equipment that have had the most problems with ones that have improved design.
“From the time they were new, the pedestals that hold the tablets have had some challenges.” Teed said. “All the wiring for power, internet, the driver license swipe, the printer, and the port for programming the tablets themselves are in those pedestals. They have to have some extra circuitry in there, just to run everything, and they have to perform flawlessly or the whole voter sign-in process can be negatively affected.”
“These were an early design and I think there were unanticipated problems with it,” he continued, “which likely accounts for a lot of what happened November 6. At the start of the day, the tablets in several different locations didn’t seem to be communicating with the printers.”
Teed was at the MLK Center in Corsicana when he started hearing the calls for help with pollbook printers come over the radios provided by the Navarro County OEM. Though everything had been programmed, tested, and was in working order, when the the pollworkers first tried to print using the pollbook printers, several of them simply would not print.
The Elections Office was prepared to handle a handful of problems at the time, but when the massive wave of problems began, it kept Teed, Francia, and the ES&S support person busy and created a backlog of repair needs. That left the office understaffed to handle the normal load of voter questions, phone calls, and other things that would normally fill the hours of Election Day.
Teed was in Rice when he bcame aware of the stuation in Pursley, and had already been at MLK and Westside Baptist Churcxh that morning. Roger was taking care of pollbook problems in Eureka, The ES&S person was helpful, but not very familiar with the area and needed directions as to exactly how to get to Dawson and Pursley.
“I have never seen anything like this in my entire election career,” Teed said. “We know this can never happen again, whatever we have to do. Polls have to be open and people have to have extremely reliable equipment to use. And, we need more safety net measures in place so whatever happens, people can keep voting.”
“If it hadn’t been for all the voting places across the county being available to all county residents,” Teed said, “it would have been a true nightmare. There were many options of other places to vote, but it required extra work on the part of the voters.”
“I did contact the State regarding whether we should ask the judge to extend the polling place hours,” he said. “The State’s opinion was that because there were so many places to vote, it would not be necessary to keep the polls open late.”
Teed said it is not acceptable to have things happen the way they did November 6, and that he knows they prepared thoroughly for the day. He is no newcomer to the Election Administration business, he says he can’t fathom how they could have made a programming error that could’ve caused the situation in Dawson. With the glitching going through the wiring in the pedestal, it seems likely that may have prevented the program from installing completely and correctly. The pollbook worked, but somehow still had old election data on it.
Teed is aware this type of equipment error should not have occurred, after all the checks and balances he and Francia had made prior to that day, and after all the work ES&S and Danda did to ensure the software was ready to go. “Everyone really worked hard,” Teed said. “What happened on Election Day shocked us all.”
He said releasing any voting numbers before they had a chance to thoroughly examine the returns would have been irresponsible. “We actually had the early voting results ready, but would not release them until we had a chance to make sure that problems, especially at Dawson, would not affect the vote counts,” he said. “I would do it the same way again. I wanted to exercise extreme caution, because we needed to know for sure that the problems would not affect the election returns. I wanted to ensure there was no effect on the votes cause by problems with the equipment.”
Thankfully, he said, the county’s numbers are sound.
Going forward, the Elections Office intends to work vigilantly to make sure each and every issue is fixed. They have been in constant contact with Danda and with ES&S itself. “We are working together to investigate this and see what we have to do going forward,” Teed said. “We’re still learning things from our pollworkers, and are working to get detailed reports. We’d love for the public to give us input as well.”