• November 22, 2014

Coryell mulls countywide voting precinct proposal

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Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 11:52 am, Wed Jul 16, 2014.

GATESVILLE — The top Coryell County elections official is moving forward with a plan to allow any county voter to vote at any county precinct rather than at a designated polling place.

The countywide-precinct plan, which County Tax Assessor/Collector Justin Carothers will present to the commissioners court on Monday, would eliminate the paper-ballot option and require all votes to be cast electronically.

“We are going to give it a shot,” Carothers said. “We are just getting started with the application process.”

Carothers, who is tasked with conducting all elections in the county, is putting together a focus group of county residents to study the proposal and offer input.

A public hearing will be conducted, then the commissioners court will consider a resolution to make the application.

If approved by the Secretary of State, the plan would take effect at the next general election. The Texas Legislature is considering allowing the plan for primary elections as well.

Convenience and cost-saving are the benefits of the plan, Carothers said, but he admits there is some resistance to electronic voting.

“The Republican Party is behind it,” said Carothers, a Republican. “Ed Thompson (GOP county chairman) has come out for it.”

Gene Whittle, chairman of the Coryell County Democratic Party, has expressed reservations about mandatory electronic voting, but said his opposition is personal and not an official position of the party.

“I don’t think it should be a party issue,” Whittle said. “It is a voter issue.”

Whittle said his concern is that electronic ballots are less secure than paper ballots, which have a “paper trail” to follow if questions arise.

Carothers said while it is true that “nothing in paper is created” in the electronic voting process, the system has been tested and found to be accurate and secure.

“There is more backup with the electronic ballot,” Carothers said, “and you cannot manipulate an electronic ballot. A paper ballot is less safe and easier to change.”

About 40 percent of county voters now opt for paper ballots, Carothers said. He believes most voters will come to trust the electronic method once they get used to it.

About 20 Texas counties have switched to the countywide precinct system so far, he said, and the response from voters has been “overwhelmingly favorable.”

For information about the countywide-precinct plan, call Carothers at (254) 865-5911, ext. 2265.

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