voter check-in shenanigans in Harris County

Today was my first experience voting in my new neighborhood. I’d voted in the Heights for the past 17 years or so, but I didn’t expect today to be any different except for the location change. That wasn’t the case.

I walked up to the table to register, showing my Texas driver license as I always do. I don’t typically carry my voter registration card because it isn’t the right size to keep in my wallet, and a Texas DL is an acceptable form of voter identification (as are much less unique items such as a utility bill or bank statement, things that can easily be lifted from someone’s mailbox).

After I’d signed my name in the voter log, the man checking me in asked if I had my voter registration card on me. I said that I didn’t, and he turned to get “the form.” I then noticed the man at the table next to him was looking at the folded up sheet in my hand (it was my list for the voting booth). I jerked my paper back, and the second man asked if that was my voter registration card. I said it wasn’t and asked what the problem was, stating that I always just use my Texas DL to vote. The second man said, “You can still vote,” to which I replied, “Oh, I know I can.” The second man put a check mark next to my name in the voter log while the man who’d checked me in wrote my name at the top of a form. I asked what this was about, and the second man said, “It’s something new. We’re always trying to improve the system.” Uh huh.

I voted and then came to work, having a good 20 or 30 minutes to stew about this in the car. On the one hand, I was able to vote, so it wasn’t like they kept me from doing what I came there to do. On the other hand, why did they put a mark next to my name in the voter log and write my name on a form? Especially when, being the anal-retentive person I am, I’d checked the Harris County website yesterday to be sure that a Texas DL was okay on its own. If they were keeping track of who had their voter registration card on their person for curiosity’s sake, they could have put a hash mark on a piece of paper. There is no reason they needed to know specific names. And I’m sure that a number of people won’t have their cards on them today, so that list would get pretty long and cause unnecessary delays.

I took a quick poll at work to see if anyone else had been asked for their voter registration card – 50% offered it up before being asked and 50% only presented their Texas DL. No one in my poll had been asked for their card after offering up their driver license. So what gives? Is this simply a case of two volunteers not understanding the process? If so, I shudder to think what other mistakes they are making today.

After my poll, I contacted County Clerk Beverly Kaufman’s office to let them know about this. They asked for a description of the two men – old white guys – and said they’d make sure to let them know that they weren’t following procedure.

I call shenanigans.

UPDATE (4:15PM) – I just received a call back from Beverly Kaufman’s office. The woman I spoke with this morning said that they contacted the polling place to find out what was going on. Seems there are some voters who have a little “ID Required” next to their name. The poll workers were instructed that if those people came in, their names should be placed on a list. She said the poll workers mistakenly thought that people who came in with only an ID (and not a voter card) should be put on a list. That’s basically the polar opposite of what was supposed to happen and pretty counter-intuitive to the entire voting process. You have to wonder how long this went on before they figured it out – I would imagine that backed the line up quite a bit.

It sounds to me like the volunteers didn’t understand the basic voting process, whether from lack of training or their own limitations. Remember that when I questioned them, one man told me they were “trying something new,” which obviously wasn’t the case. Accidents happen and mistakes are made, but this is a pretty odd thing to be confused by. And you want to limit confusion at polling places, or much bigger issues start to arise (see: Florida, 2000).

It also brings up another issue – who among us has an “ID Required” next to their name, and why? I “jokingly” asked if I have an “ID required” next to my name, and she said I do not. But I wonder if I might get an asterisk or something after today…

I did appreciate the follow up call on the same day from Kaufman’s office and the fact that they took my issue seriously. That’s pretty great.

9 Replies to “voter check-in shenanigans in Harris County”

  1. I am so glad you followed up on that, Crystal — whether or not the woman you spoke to will is another question. I’m all out of blind faith in blind faith. I think their list might have been names whose ballots should (in their view) be sabotaged. Why else would he be staring at your cheat sheet, except to determine how you were planning to vote?

    Nothing weird happened at my poll, by the way, when I voted. I’m happy to report. I’m so aggrieved it would have become an INCIDENT, I know.

    I’m enjoying your blogs.

    1. Thanks for reading (and commenting), Paula.

      I was pleasantly surprised at the response I received from Kaufman’s office. I guess I expected to be brushed off or for the person on the other end of the phone to be rude, but the two people I spoke with were respectful and polite. So I have faith that they at least passed the information on to the next level. Where it went from there, if anywhere, I don’t know.

  2. Last time I voted they were using the computerized voting systems. I asked to see a paper printout or receipt or whatever they would use for a recount. Ain’t no such thing. My vote is whatever the programmer says it was.

    Now THAT’s what I call shenanigans!

  3. I’ve met Beverly Kaufman, and she’s a straight shooter. So I’d imagine that some heads will roll in li’l ol’ Spring Branch.

    Not really.

    Hey, at least they didn’t ask you to pay the new “poll tax”…!

  4. You have to show ID (are marked on the rolls as needing to) if you registered by mail AND this is your 1st time voting in a federal election. Really odd they were that confused. Mire to say but on the road … Not commenting while driving, though, but about to drive…

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