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Some early voters report problems in Collin County
by STEVE STOLER / WFAA-TV
Posted on February 23, 2010 at 9:11 PM
Updated today at 10:31 PM
Several Collin County voters are complaining about their early voting experiences. They say election workers just couldn't believe they wanted to vote Republican.
All of them are minorities, and they believe race is the reason they were questioned.
Three of the voters who had problems at a McKinney polling place have something in common: All are women; all are black; and all say they were questioned when they wanted to vote Republican.
Connie Evans explained what happened when she went to her polling place. “Before she gave me the card, she said, 'Now you're voting what?' 'I'm voting Republican.' And then after she gave me the card, she asked me again what I was voting, and I said, 'I'm voting Republican.'"
Tiffany Loera and Brittany Evans say they were asked the same question several times.
“It’s very offensive, because it's almost like we don't know what we're talking about," Loera said. "Why ask more than once?"
Four African-American candidates are running on the Republican ballot, the most ever in Collin County. Historically, African-Americans vote Democratic in the county.
The women believe that's why they were questioned.
“Most black people were supposed to vote Democrat, but we can change our mind just like anybody else," Evans said.
In response, Collin County Elections Administrator Sharon Rowe sent a message to all county poll workers, telling them to ask every single voter if they are voting in the Democratic or Republican primary, or allow the voter to declare their party affiliation. She warned them to never assume a party affiliation for any voter.
Connie Evans says reaction she received has upset her. “If I’m coming in and I say I'm voting Republican, that's what I'm voting; I don't need to be asked three times," she said.
The problem isn't’ limited to African-American voters at just one polling place.
Long-time Republican voter Fred Nasseri's had difficulty inside the voting booth.
“As soon as I put the card in, it says 'Democratic.' I was really upset, and I let them know this is a concern," Nasseri said.
The elections administrator wants to talk with all the voters who had problems at the polls, so she can address each issue to make sure it won't happen again.
Primary elections, especially early voting, where an often very elderly person is supposed to correctly code a electronic key card, are even more complicated since you have Republicans and Democrats voting with dozens of ballot styles. To credit the poll workers, I don't think they are actively trying to discriminate against anyone, they're just making sure people are getting what they ask for.
Sure, this results in a few voters being asked "are you sure" a few times, but let's face it - there are historical trends in minorities voting in one primary over another. Those statistics aren't disputed, and I think its just a over cautious attempt to overcome the norm and ensure voters are getting what they want. I don't think this is a case of disenfranchisement of a voter - I really don't.
If anything, this should be seen as a good thing - that people are crossing lines from R to D and from D to R. I just hope people don't take offense when a 75-year-old poll worker makes double sure. It's not out of discrimination, but perhaps rather surprise.
An interesting article is in the DMN right now, entitled "Majority of Hispanics are Conservative."
Political tides are changing, and it just takes time to change habits.
Anyway... I just don't think there is ill intent here. Also, isn't there large Republican turn out this year? That might also lead to confusion.
We all have the right to pull our own "operation chaos" and vote in either primary, however, if you do this, you are locked out of the run-off in your own party... i.e. if you vote Democratic and then there is a Republican run-off, you cannot vote in the run-off (and vice versa). You will also be identified as a voter for that party (show up on their lists, get mail pieces, phone calls, etc., from the party you infiltrated, etc.). But, it is your right to do so. I wouldn't recommend it if you plan to run for office in the future, because you will be land-blasted by your opponent(s) for crossing the party line, just as Wayne Richard was for his participation in operation chaos back in 2008.
I have also heard that by default the ballot will go to Democrat ballot if a button is not pushed or something. I have heard this might have been an issue at some locations.
I saw these clerks are awesome and just be patient. If you get the wrong ballot, raise your hand and the judge or clerk will assist.
This is about the primary election. Everybody votes from the same line. The registration clerk asks as they print a label for the voter which party. Next person down is still working with another person and verifies again which party because they must put the sticker for signature on the correct form. Get that done, and standing off to the side is the person that will encode the ballot card so that the right party and right precinct ballot comes up.
And yes, with a lot of people in line and mostly clerks over 50, or maybe 60 or 70 years old, getting it right requires checking and rechecking. The worse thing would be to have one party voter get the wrong ballot cast their vote and then complain that it was the wrong party.
And much to some Republican chagrin, people who want to have a vote in the local election almost have to vote as a Republican in the primary since Democrats only get about 35% in the general election in Collin County. And for that, no one should complain. They would rather vote for local than their choices in the State democrat primary but the choices there are few. In November, they can vote on either side of the ballot.
So Republicans who complain about Democrats voting in "their" primary need to understand that elected officials should be elected by all and we should embrace that part of the democracy.
We saw in 2008 when the Democrats had an exciting ticket how the normal "local" voters voted in their own primaries, plus a few pumpkin head guided Republicans.
And a voter in the primary who is asked which party to make sure no mistakes are made out to be proud of the system instead of running off and ocmplaining about racism. These people give their time FOR DEMOCRACY with a gracious $8.50 / hour of long long days of dealing with the public and complying with election law so they are not fined.
We know these complaints were about publicity because they cried to the media first. Wouldn't a normal complaint be to the election judge or election headquarters? Would you complain to FOX4 over a bad Walmart employee or to the Walmart manager? Give it a break.
I have worked the polls for over 15 years and have to only ask once.....are you voting Republican or Democrat? Not three times!
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