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State election chief visits Gregg County Courthouse

By Glenn Evans
Oct. 30, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Esperanza "Hope" Andrade dropped in on some voters in Longview on Tuesday, greeting them in line as they signed in for early balloting.

"How are you, sir? Thanks for voting. I'm your secretary of state," Andrade said, shaking a man's hand.

"Hi, I'm David Willard," the Longview city manager replied, before turning toward his civic duty.

The woman in charge of elections in Texas continued her informal tour of the early voting site in the Gregg County Courthouse. Andrade stopped at four East Texas counties Tuesday, and planned on seeing three more today, on a tour to encourage early voting for this coming Tuesday's general election.

Early voting ends Friday. Gregg County Elections Administrator Kathryn Nealy said voting at eight sites has averaged about 3,000 daily since early voting began nine days ago.

Andrade said her message was simple: Texas' voter ID law remains in courtroom limbo, and photo identification is not required.

She also absorbed Nealy's observation on recent statewide reports that voter registration forms sometimes don't make it from the driver's license renewal office to voter registrars.

"I'm sure you've heard this," Nealy said to Andrade. " 'I registered when I got my driver's license.' It doesn't always finalize, it doesn't always process through. If maybe (the Department of Public Safety) could have a notice telling people, 'If you don't get your (voter) card in a few days, check on it.' Because, they come to vote thinking they're done."

Gregg County Democratic Chairman Bryce Bagby, who joined the Longview stop, added that was the No. 1 complaint he hears.

Andrade said her office does not receive complaints about DPS.

"I will take that concern back, because I've heard that," she said.

She added that situation underscored the importance of voting early. If there's a problem at the polls, there is time to verify whether or not someone's registered.

"If you wait until election day and everybody is so busy - we're not saying we won't do it - it'll just take a little longer," she said.

Earlier, Andrade responded to reports from the Republican Party of Texas that two electronic voting machines - in Amarillo and in the Dallas area - registered the wrong votes.

The party's statement Monday blamed the errors on improper calibration of the machines and said fraud was not suspected. It also urged voters to carefully look at the voting summaries that conclude the electronic process and not to leave until officials know of a problem.

"That's not a common thing," Andrade said, after noting every local election chief controls the readiness of machines.

She also indicated she takes no position on whether a paper trail should be generated from local balloting.

"That's a local issue," Andrade said. "Each county gets to decide whether to do electronic or paper."



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