Monday, November 12, 2007

TEAMing up to disenfranchise a Veteran

This Veterans Day, I'd like to tell you how two Disabled Air Force vets were denied their hard fought right to vote by a nameless, faceless bureaucrat, and how I helped to get them back on track.

Tuesday was election day. That might come as a surprise to a lot of people, since in my precinct only 178 people (out of 3008) managed to wander into the polls. Out of those 178, four I had to vote provisionally because they had been deleted off the rolls in error. Here is how that happened:

Two couples, who had moved from Montgomery County to Harris County a little over a year ago had done what they were supposed to do and sent in new voter registration cards, and change of address forms to DPS and had received new voter registration cards for their new address. One couple then used their new cards to vote last May. As part of the new TEAM program in the Texas Secretary of State's office, that information was uploaded from Paul Bettancourt's office to the Sec. State's. As a matter of course, the Sec. State's office sent a notification to Montgomery County to delete them from the polls in Montgomery County. Either that deletion was ignored, or it was overridden, because when Montgomery County uploaded their information to the Sec. State's office, they were back on Montgomery County's voter rolls. That triggered a deletion notice to Harris County, which duly deleted them from the system again on the assumption that they had moved back to Montgomery County. Montgomery county then finally snapped that these people don't live in Montgomery County anymore and deleted them. Now these people don't exist in EITHER county.

One couple this happened to were two disabled Air Force Vets, who both work for the VA, and who were married on Veterans Day. They came to the polling location to make sure that Proposition 9 passed. Prop. 9 reads:
"The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt all or part of the residence homesteads of certain totally disabled veterans from ad valorem taxation and authorizing a change in the manner of determining the amount of the existing exemption from ad valorem taxation to which a disabled veteran is entitled."
Luckily, it passed with a large margin anyway, but the bottom line is that I had two people who had fought and paid a terrible price to ensure our continued ability to govern ourselves in the longest running democracy on the planet, and I had to deny them the right to vote like everybody else because they were not on my poll books thanks to a screw up on the part of some nameless faceless clerk in Montgomery County. They were absolutely LIVID that their right to vote was being denied to them, but they were no more livid than I.

I voted them, and the other couple, provisionally, and for many, perhaps most election judges, that would probably have been that. They'd hope that some other clerk got it fixed, but not me. Hoping someone else did their job was not good enough for me. That was how we got in this mess to begin with. So Wednesday, I got on the phone to Karen Richards in the Secretary of State's office, who helped figure out just where the process had fallen over and pinpointed the data coming out of Montgomery County as the culprit. She then reinstated these four people in the state database and sent notification to Harris County to reinstate them in the county database. That had the result of causing the four provisional votes to be opened and counted.

I sincerely hope that the Sec State's office gets these glitches fixed. While four out of 178 is only about 2% error rate, that is still far too high. This is the number of provisional voter's I'd expect out of a presidential election with much higher turnout. I am not looking forward to the primaries.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm disappointed at the low voter participation. Ten percent of the registered population determining the future of 100% of us.

But on a positive note, the CFISD bond didn't pass with 80% of the vote this time. 55/45 isn't too bad and the fact that more people voted NO for this bond than voted YES for the Berry Center in 2001.


November 13, 2007 8:19 AM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

I didn't even get 10%, I got a little under 6%, and that was of REGISTERED VOTERS, not the population as a whole.

Yes, this nation deserves what it gets.

November 13, 2007 8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Each vote represented the power of 10 of the registered voters... wow what power

November 13, 2007 9:07 PM  
Blogger Jean said...

Bettencourt mentioned that he was "proud" of the 40-45% of voters who voted against the huge, unneeded bonds, such as those for cancer research. I told my brother I felt my vote was wasted because stuff I voted against was passed anyway. I wonder how informed most voters who turn out to vote really are. I don't have much confidence in the eslate ballots either. I commend you for your diligence in manning the polls, and especially for seeing to it that these veteran's rights to vote were respected. I'd be livid too. I have my own horror story about voting, but that's a topic for another day!

November 15, 2007 7:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be nice if it was easier to access voting. I live in Grimes county, but am almost NEVER home during the week. I am a consultant on an airplane Monday and back on Friday. Unless people like me find out well ahead of time and participate in absentee voting we can't show. I didn't even know if it was available and even if it was, with the hours they keep it would still be impossible. It would be great if the day we vote was a holiday. You might get more turnout that way.

I am of the opinion that these smaller elections and the primaries are where we the people can truly make the difference.

November 15, 2007 11:25 PM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

John, I don't know the situation in Grimes county, but in Harris county, we have early voting for 10 days starting something like two weeks before an election and ending the thursday (I think) prior to election day, it ALWAYS includes a weekend, and for the last 5 days or so the polls open 7-7, just as on election day. You can also go to ANY of the early voting locations to vote, you don't have to go to the one for your precinct if you vote early. I would be willing to bet good hard money Grimes county does much the same thing. You SHOULD be able to vote early the weekend two weeks before the election.

Might I ask what sort of consulting you do? Just curious..

November 16, 2007 8:14 AM  

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