TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas — Long wait times, software issues and coronavirus concerns are some of the problems Travis County encountered during the Primary Election on Super Tuesday.
Despite polls closing at 7 p.m., the Travis County Clerk's website was reporting several polling sites that were experiencing wait times of more than an hour as of 8:40 p.m.
The University of Texas Perry-Castaneda Library was reporting a wait time of approximately two hours as of 8:40 p.m., while many others reported wait times of 90 minutes.
KVUE viewers on Tuesday morning described machine software issues and polling locations either not being opened or opening late.
KVUE reached out to the Travis County Clerk's Office, which said some polling locations were having a slow start because many election judges and poll workers did not show up.
Polling locations opened at 7 a.m., and issues were being reported around 8 a.m. According to the Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, 40 voting locations were late to open, prompting officials to call in back-up election workers to help.
DeBeauvoir said there was a two-hour delay to start Super Tuesday in Travis County but, as of noon, everything is back to normal.
"Super Tuesday got off to a rocky start due to multiple no-shows of many election judges and poll workers. To the extent that the Elections Office was given a reason, it seems people were fearful of the coronavirus," the office said. "The office began implementing its emergency procedures as soon as it became apparent that the number of no-shows was a problem. The elections staff and other personnel are filling in as emergency recruits."
DeBeauvoir said the fear of the coronavirus wasn't the only reason given as a reason for not coming in but it was the one that concerned her.
"It worries me that the coronavirus issue was a disruption for this election, especially since I know it's not here at all. And, in the end, you're not going to catch coronavirus coming in to vote, especially if you practice all the basic, you know, cleanliness skills of taking care of yourself," she said. "Wash your hands after you vote. We do basic cleaning in the polling place, as we always do. We have Purell and wipes for the screens, all of that. So, this isn't a high-risk situation nor a high-risk location ... so there's not that much to worry about right now. And it seemed odd that our election would be disrupted like this."
DeBeauvoir also explained that it is the political parties – the Democrats and Republicans – that are in charge of running the primary election. The political parties were in charge of finding the election volunteers to man the polling sites on Tuesday.
"The parties are the ones who are responsible for getting the judges. And then the judges are responsible for getting the election workers for the election date. That's the way a party primary works," DeBeauvoir said Tuesday night in a live interview with KVUE. "So one of the things we always do is we always have a backup groups. Some folks on standby case anything happens. So this morning when we realized we were starting to have a problem, we started calling our standby people and put them out there at the places that were having trouble and got it all pretty much back up and running within an hour."
She said it was at least 30 of their election workers who called ahead of time and said they weren't coming in because out of fear of the coronavirus. But it was about 40 county workers who filled in.
DeBeauvoir also said human error added to the confusion on Tuesday when the county's Wait Time Map at the county clerk's website showed unusually long times for a few of the polling sites. For example, the map showed a 602-minute wait for the Ben Hur Shrine location off Rockwood Lane in North Austin just before 10 a.m. That works out to about a 10-hour wait.
In West Austin at the Howson Branch Library on Exposition Boulevard, voters told KVUE they waited about an hour just before noon. But according to the website, the Wait Time Map estimated 6,030 minutes, or more than 100 hours.
DeBeauvoir said it was a data-entry error.
"There were some erratic moments for all of us throughout the county," she said.
In Nov. 2019, Travis County rolled out new voting machines that were first used during the Joint General and Special Election.
- Select: At check-in, you will receive your ballot card that will have a notch in the top right corner. Insert your ballot card in the ballot marking device and make your selections on the touch screen.
- Verify: Review your selections on the summary screen. If satisfied, touch “PRINT,” and then verify your selections on the printed ballot card.
- Vote: Insert your ballot card into the scanner. It will be safely stored as a hard copy backup.
DeBeauvoir has a piece of advice for voters:
"The thing that's most important for voters to do though is to take just that extra minute, verify that their ballot card is correct and then the most important thing is to put it in the ballot box," DeBeauvoir said. "Don't walk out with your ballot card – just like any paper ballot election, the ballot goes in the ballot box."
The new system cost the county about $9 million, including training. There are 2,000 new machines.
The polls closed at 7 p.m., but if you were in line before then, you will be able to cast your ballot.
Be sure to bookmark kvue.com/elections in order to get live results once the polling sites around Central Texas close. You can download the KVUE mobile app to get the election results straight to your phone. Once the app is downloaded, be sure to select topics you want to receive notifications about, including "Vote Texas" and "politics."
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