County Considers Request for New Voter Registration Database
The Brown County Commissioners met in a relatively short session to consider two agenda items of interest to taxpayers.
The first item was consideration and approval of equipment which had a cost of $20,000. Captain Tony Aaron explained that this money would not be out of local tax funds, but from the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division grant money. With the funds already allocated, the Brown County Sheriff’s office is able to purchase 7 radars and 2 WatchGuard car cameras and pay for installation without any county matching funds. This item was approved.
The second item of the agenda was presented by Suzy Young and a staff member from the Brown County Elections Office. Request was made for purchase of new transfer cases for ballots totaling $2511. Her office budget would cover the amount of this purchase. She described these cases to be a heavy duty fabric with a zippered top that would have a keyless locking device and wheels to make it more easily handled by election officials. After a short discussion commissioners approved this purchase.
Young then began describing the current voter registration database, “TEAMS” (Texas Election Administration Management System) that is used by the county and available from the State of Texas. The system was described by Young as “not user friendly” and very “unreliable”. She further stated that it had many issues in the past of going offline during elections when election workers needed to verify voter registration cards that were not on their paper lists at the polls. Currently the Elections office is facing a hardware update from the state regarding the TEAMS database. It was explained that the state system stores information that the county may not have access to that from time to time has even been purged from the system and then had to be reentered from the county level. The need to have a database that is managed more on a local basis would be more accessible and also more reliable.
Currently, the Elections office was given a 5 day notice that this system was going to be offline due to the update for an expected 5 days. Young explained how this made her very uneasy that the system would not be working in time for early voting.
Another system, VoTech was explained to be a much more user friendly platform, as communicated from other counties that are current users of Vo Tech. The need to have a system before it is needed for the elections was explained. Commissioners asked the cost of this Vo Tech database, to which Young explained, is based on the number of registered voters, but would run between $27,000 and $30,000. The cost of the current system is free other than the extra cost of employee pay when information has to be reentered or working overtime when the system is down during an election season. Richard Gist stated, “I’m no Mr. Dell, but aren’t there other counties that are in this same situation?” Young replied, “Yes, but I don’t want to be one of those counties”.
Some of these counties Young cited as using Vo Tech were Tarrant, Wise, Hill, Bastrop, Collin, Erath McClellan, and Harris. Judge West brought up the point that even though larger counties may use this system, it is necessary for the county to have a presentation from not only this company but other prospective systems along with bids in order to justify spending unbudgeted county funds. Steve Adams stated, “The court needs more research on systems before spending this money”.
Young ended her presentation by mentioning that the county would see improvements in the elections system, in productivity and time if they can get away from the TEAMS system.
Commissioners agreed to discuss further after research and bids were obtained.