Denton elections administration faces changes after botched election day

Denton elections administration faces changes after botched election day

Denton elections administration faces changes after botched election day
January 19
09:44 2017

James Norman | Staff Writer

Despite several changes made in Denton County’s Elections Administration following a litany of issues with voting during the 2016 general election, the administration still has some self-proclaimed work to do.

“We learned a lot about what we were doing and how we were doing it, and where we need to shore up certain things,” Deputy Elections Administrator Kerry Martin said.

Denton County voters turned up to polling booths on Nov. 8 with faulty ballot scanners delivered in “test mode.” After polls closed, many paper ballots were delivered to the wrong location and voters were left confused at old voter I.D. signage in a few polling places.

Elections Administrator Lannie Noble retired and two other officials were fired after election day, and more changes are to come.

Former Tarrant County elections administrator Frank Phillips has been brought in to replace Noble. Phillips worked for Denton County for 18 years prior to working for Tarrant County.

“I would put [Phillips] up against just about anybody in the state in terms of his knowledge of law,” County Judge Mary Horn said. “And I know he’s a very organized man. Frank will get to the bottom of it.”

Martin said several changes were already in progress on the “process” side as well. This includes purchasing an inventory tracking system and an elections administration software that helps define processes and keep track of how they’re doing.

Horn also launched an external investigation with the ethics division of the Secretary of State’s office “to see what we needed to look at.”

“[We reached out] to see what we did right and what we did wrong and how we can correct all these things so they don’t happen again,” Horn said.

The office is also reaching out to those who worked or was involved with the election to ask for input on how they can improve. Horn said these workers are a “valuable source of information” for what has worked and what hasn’t.

She added that there were a few instances where Denton officials working the polls had experience but their polling workers were new, and maybe did not have an “adequate amount of training.”

“I had one person contact me and say her training was fast and she was struggling,” Horn said. “She took it on herself to take a second training course.”

But training isn’t the only issue. The administration is understaffed by about four people. Martin said part of the plan included bringing in additional employees, as well as provide training software for judges. Martin also mentioned potentially working with UNT to have them look into the processes.

The age of the machines is also a problem.

“From what I understand the money is there and in my personal opinion this money needs to be spent,” said Lisa Hendrickson, county chairman of the Denton Republican Party. “The machines are over 12 years old. In today’s technology, that’s old.”

Martin said that while the life expectancy on the machines is 12-15 years old, there is a plan to upgrade them.

Phyllis Wolper, the Denton County Democratic Party’s chairperson, echoed the same sentiments about the age of the machines, saying they were old and outdated.

“As a county, we have grown tremendously over the past 10 years,” Wolper said. “We did not have the proper planning to deal with it.”

Horn understands the issues with the equipment, but said the situation isn’t so simple. While she did acknowledge they are trying to replace the equipment, to accommodate a county the size of Denton would take “millions of dollars.”

Martin however, is confident in the funding for whatever changes are needed.

“It’s going to take some money to do it,” Martin said. “I think because of how public it was, I think they see the need [for money].”

Despite the issues that persisted, Horn, Wolper and Hendrickson all shared confidence in Phillips’ ability to right the ship.

“I am very confident we have a stellar team in Denton County,” Hendrickson said. “We will set the standard.”

Featured Image: Samantha Hobson takes calls at the Denton County Elections Administration Building. Hobson is a temporary elections clerk and has been taking phone calls all day. Gabriela C. Perez

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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