Voters heading to the polls early for the midterm elections in Texas are reporting that the voting machines are completely flip-flopping their selections when they vote straight party.
The straight party vote allows you to fill in just one space on the ballot to vote for all Democratic or all Republican candidates. But if you do it in Texas, the machine will allegedly switch your ballot to the opposing party.
There are few nail-biter races in the Texas midterms, particularly the Senate race between incumbent Ted Cruz (R) and Beto O’Rourke, according to PBS.
On Friday, the office of the secretary of state of Texas released a statement saying there have been problems with a specific brand of voting machines, Hart eSlate. These machines are used in about 30 percent of counties in Texas, so this could become a widespread problem. Around 82 counties in Texas are currently using them, according to the Texas Tribune.
That’s about 7.2 million registered voters.
However, say state officials, the machines are not actually malfunctioning. Voters simply aren’t using them properly.
Some voters have reported that Hart eSlate machines, used locally, appear to change their straight-ticket selection, according to a state election advisory: https://t.co/IAi5Co3fGa But the problem is likely due to eagerness, says one McLennan County party chair. pic.twitter.com/FkKKVo8QlF
— Waco Tribune-Herald (@wacotrib) October 26, 2018
“The problems being reported are a result of user error,” said Sam Taylor, spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos. “Usually, voters hitting a button or using the selection wheel before the screen is finished rendering.”
The Hart eSlate machines are used in Harris County, the largest county in Texas, which contains the city of Houston. The machines are also used in Travis County, which contains Austin and Fort Worth.
Texas early voting began on Monday, and voter turnout has already been high. Polls are experiencing long lines, which may explain why voters are feeling a little rushed. Early voting in Texas will end on November 2. Election Day is November 6.
Before final submission, the Hart eSlate machine shows a screen where voters can take a last look at their ballot before casting their votes.
The eHart voting machines were brought into use at the turn of the century. Texas is in desperate need to modernize our election systems. In the meantime:
– Check your ballot
– Ask a poll worker for help
– Call us at 866-OUR-VOTE if you have questions#txlege
— Texas Civil Rights Project (@TXCivilRights) October 25, 2018
The issue has proved polarizing for party leaders in Texas. The Texas Democratic Party said the secretary of state’s office is not doing enough to warn voters of problems.
Taylor, the spokesperson for the office, said that election officials have “already trained” and that the office has “no legal authority” when it comes to the voting machines. The Hart eSlate machines were certified in 2009. According to Taylor, counties are responsible for buying their own voting equipment.
“We will continue to educate Texas voters using existing resources,” he said. He said that all voters in Texas should “take their time, slow down, and carefully review their ballot before casting one.”
There is a silver lining: this will be the last time voters in Texas experience this problem. Starting in 2020, there will be no straight party selection available on Texas ballots.