FSFP and National Election Defense Coalition Demand Records on Texas’s Voting Machine Problems

Free Speech For People and our partners at the National Election Defense Coalition today submitted a request for records under the Texas Public Information Act for information about a serious voting machine problem that manifested during the 2018 general election.

Background

About 82 of Texas’s 254 counties (including some of its most populous) use the obsolete and trouble-plagued Hart InterCivic eSlate voting machines. During the 2018 general election, many voters using eSlate voting machines discovered that when they selected the straight-ticket voting option, their recorded votes on the summary page showed that they had voted for the candidate for the U.S. Senate from a different political party. The Director of Elections acknowledged on October 23, 2018, “We have heard from a number of people voting on Hart eSlate machines that when they voted straight ticket, it appeared to them that the machine had changed one or more of their selections to a candidate from a different party. This can be caused by the voter taking keyboard actions before a page has fully appeared on the eSlate, thereby de-selecting the pre-filled selection of that party’s candidate.” As the Secretary of State later noted, the eSlate voting machine’s display rendering is so slow that a voter must “wait at least 3-5 seconds for all choices to be rendered on the eSlate voting machine” (or longer in some counties) or else risk inadvertently selecting an opposing party’s candidate.

At this point, it is unclear the extent to which this voting machine problem affected the final vote totals. But regardless of its influence on the outcome in the 2018 election, a basic principle of democratic elections is that they must use equipment that reliably clarifies and registers the voter’s choices.

Our request

Our Public Information Act request seeks the following records from the Elections Division of the Texas Secretary of State:

  1. All records, documents, calendar entries, notes or records of conversations, or written communications (including email and text messages), from October 1, 2018 to the date of this request, sent or received within the Secretary of State’s office, or to or from a person outside that office, that mention (whether as the focus or in passing) any concerns with Hart InterCivic eSlate voting machines in general, and in particular, with design or other issues that could lead to a voter, who had intended to select straight-ticket voting, having his or her vote marked or recorded for a U.S. Senate candidate from a different political party than the voter’s straight-ticket party selection.
  2. All records, whether organized or aggregated at the level of state, county, precinct, individual voting machine, or otherwise, regarding the number of voters who, under any voting system, specifically selected straight-ticket voting in the 2018 general election.
  3. All records, whether organized or aggregated at the level of state, county, precinct, individual voting machine, or otherwise, regarding the number of voters who, under any voting system, specifically selected straight-ticket voting in the 2018 general election with the specific exception of the candidate for U.S. Senate.
  4. All reports and audit logs generated by Verity Count and related Verity election management systems and/or devices used in conjunction with Hart InterCivic eSlate voting machines.

Next steps

We will share any responsive records that we receive from the Secretary of State on our web site, and stay tuned for further action.

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