AUSTIN - With the Oct. 11 deadline to register to vote in the November election quickly approaching, the Travis County Tax Office is speeding up voter registration by allowing eligible residents to fill out their forms on computers.
Staff in the tax office are busy sorting through a 10,000 card backlog of people registering to vote. To help speed up the process, Travis County is offering the new pilot program.
Because of the state statute, people traditionally have to fill out voter registration forms and turn them into clerks by mail or in person. Those clerks then have to input the information into the computer system. It can take four to five days to process registrations this way.
To cut down on time, Travis County is allowing people to fill out the forms on computers in the tax office located at 5501 Airport Boulevard which inputs the data into the system automatically. People will still have to print it out the form, sign it and turn it into a clerk, but staff said these registrations take about two days to process.
While this is an improvement, staff said the overall process is outdated and prone to error.
"It's easy to make a mistake," said Travis County Director of Voter Registration Gretchen Nagy." So we enter and then we audit so we're also reviewing and making sure. So it's a two step process, very time consuming and very expensive. So instead of us spending money for outreach, we're spending it to have people enter paper."
Nagy said two-thirds of her budget goes to hiring people to input data. That comes out to $50,00 to $100,000 in state funding.
Travis County is hoping to rally enough support at the Texas State Capitol during the next legislative session to change the process and pass online registration.
In the meantime, county staff are aiming to get 90 percent of eligible voters -- or a little more than 715,000 people -- registered. The latest totals show the county is 89.99 percent there and staff expect to reach the goal.
People who haven't registered have several options. You can fill out and mail in a form. It just needs to be postmarked by midnight on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The Travis County Tax Office will be open from 7:30 a.m. until 12 a.m. Tuesday registering people. Also, volunteer deputy registrars will be all around town Tuesday, including at all Thunder Cloud Subs and Alamo Drafthouse theater locations, signing people up to vote.
Voter turnout in Texas ranks as 50th in the country.