On Monday, Texas Director of Elections Ann McGeehan sent a letter to all state Election Officials authorizing them to create "emergency paper ballots" in light of statewide failures by Election System & Software, Inc. (ES&S) to provide ballots in time for the state's upcoming May 13 Runoff Elections, The BRAD BLOG has learned.
Early voting begins on Monday for those elections and counties across the state do not yet have ballots and, in many cases, programming for their optical-scan and touch-screen voting machines. ES&S has contracts with more than 140 Texas counties.
McGeehan has instructed officials to create and number their own paper ballots, secure boxes to store them in, and hire additional workers to manually hand count ballots as an emergency procedure to deal with the rapidly deteriorating situation.
The letter from McGeehan (posted in full exclusively at the end of this article) --- which does not mention ES&S by name, but refers to the Omaha, Nebraska-based company only as "a certified voting systems vendor" --- was sent in response to complaints from officials around the state that "programming media or, in some cases, your ballots" had not been received yet by officials.
In a statement to the San Antonio's Express-News this morning, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff says, "It sure is exasperating...We are looking at avenues to hold them responsible for this." Bexar County is just one of more than 140 in Texas with whom ES&S has contracts.
"They made their priorities," Wolff says, "and I think Texas certainly wasn't one of them."
The BRAD BLOG has also received statements from officials in other states who were still more direct in expressing their frustration with the company's business practices now being described by some as including "coercion" and "threats."
This most recent embarrassment for ES&S, the country's largest Electronic Voting Machine Vendor, is just the latest in what has now become an epidemic string of failures to meet contractual obligations in scores of states and counties across the country. The BRAD BLOG has reported on many of these troubling problems in a long series of articles in hopes of connecting the dots of those failures to illustrate and warn of the rapidly approaching E-Voting train wreck.
So far, both the mainstream corporate media, as well as many elections officials across the country have --- to the delight of ES&S --- failed to notice the remarkably clear pattern of delinquency and failure the company has demonstrated time and again across the nation in recent weeks and months.
Texas was plagued, during their recent March 7th Primary Election, by a host of failures in voting equipment made by both ES&S and Hart InterCivic, another voting machine vendor certified to do business in the state. Those failures on Election Day led to a statewide Election Contest filed by a former Republican Supreme Court Justice after tabulators failed and electronic ballots were misprogrammed and miscounted.
In Jefferson County, TX officials threatened to withhold payment after the debacle until their machines were fixed by ES&S. The company, however, answered by reportedly refusing to program the machines at all for the state's upcoming Runoff Elections unless payment was made in full. The county, in a bind, was forced to comply with the strong-arm tactics.
And now, with new elections just weeks away, officials all over the state are finding themselves --- like many other states across the country --- without the promised ballots from ES&S and scrambling for alternative solutions. Election Director McGeehan describes the situation as "completely unacceptable." Writing in her letter to Election Officials, she says:
In the letter, McGeehan goes on to explain that officials should crate "emergency paper ballots" by either creating their own, or using "PDF format to print copies of the ballot" in cases were "proofs" had been previously supplied by ES&S.
Instructions are included for number and initializing thousands of ballots by hand:
Further, officials are instructed that they may have to manually hand count ballots that would otherwise be counted by either optical-scan systems or recorded by touch-screen voting machines.
They are also told to create boxes for the ballot storage and find people to count them. McGeehan writes...