County clerk's office plans for election despite fire

August 27, 2010 3:49:06 PM PDT
Harris County election officials are scrambling to come up with plan for the midterm elections. This, after a fire at a warehouse destroyed nearly all of the county's voting machines. The county clerk is now outlining a plan for those elections, which are just two months away.

Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman said it is a tragic and a huge loss, but also that Harris County and its workers will pull together to make sure voters actually get an election that they have come to expect.

About 10,000 pieces of equipment, all of the county's e-slate voting machines that go to every precinct, were all in that warehouse that was destroyed Friday morning.

The slightly better news is that the management system into the county's voting system is still housed in downtown Houston. Even though the machines are broken, the system and the software used to implement the system is still up and running.

The question is, where do you get the replacement machines? The vendor for the county is at work and they will be meeting with election officials. They are also looking at other counties throughout the state of Texas for help. No matter what, Beverly Kaufman says she's devastated, but wants to ensure that the elections will go on.

"We are going to continue to A, try to get to the bottom of what happened out there and B, to assess what our needs are going to be for the general election. I'm gratified that I have heard from every member from commissioners' court this morning, assuring me of their support to supply the resources that we need, to pull this election off," said Kaufman. "I'm very optimistic, in spite of this great challenge and the reason why I'm optimistic is I know the caliber of my people."

Commissioners court is planning an emergency meeting on Monday at 2pm to authorize purchases for additional election equipment. The machines are fully insured.

From the county clerk to her workers, on down to the local precinct judges, everyone will be involved. The clerk is already encouraging people who are eligible to vote by mail to get ready to do so. They also say they will encourage many people to vote early, which begins in October.

In the meantime, the gathering of e-slate machines from all across Texas has already begun.


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