Harrison County Elections Administrator Donald Robinette is aiming to smooth hurdles after running into some glitches the first day of early voting for the Nov. 3 General Election.
“For the most part things actually went good by the grace of God and good people,” Robinette told the News Messenger. “Some are significant complaints; some maybe not as (significant).”
“There were a lot of fires I was trying to put out,” he said regarding the first day of early voting. “We’re striving to serve the public and have an honest, clean election.”
“Yes we have had some issues, but we are seeking to resolve them as quickly as possible,” said Robinette.
Regarding some of the ballots, Robinette said he’s got a handle on the supply of paper ballots now after they ran out of paper ballots for Precinct 10 at the main elections office. The problem was he just didn’t have enough available at the main office polling site.
“I thought that I had run out of ballots for Precinct 10, but I actually had not,” Robinette explained late Tuesday.
Considering the high interest in this election, he had figured the overall turnout would surpass the traditional 40 to 50 percent the county usually sees; thus he made plans to accommodate a turnout of 60 percent.
“The problem was I should have just ordered extra from the get-go,” he said. “I should have planned to have more ballots at all voting locations.”
“You never know where people are going to show up,” he said. “It’s better to error on the side of (having) too many.”
The elections administrator said while he does have some room for improvement, the office has worked hard in trying to assure a smooth election despite unanticipated issues like the Texas Supreme Court’s decision to order the restoration of Green Party candidates to the ballot just days before the mailing deadline for overseas and military ballots.
“We have been busting our rear-ends trying to get mail-in ballots out,” said Robinette, sharing he got 400 in the mail Tuesday morning and planned to send more than 200 out on Wednesday.
“We’ve been working, many of us, many hours, trying to get all that done,” he said.
In an effort to better serve the public, Robinette said his office tried to have a ballot style to offer for every situation, to accommodate the various elections, including school and city ones that are being conducted for specific precincts.
“We think that we’ve got things going in the right direction,” he said.
Regarding Democratic Party Chair Maxine Golightly’s concern about the non-balanced representation of early voting workers, per political party, Robinette said he does believe in party parity.
“It didn’t happen the way it should and I agree with Maxine it should’ve been more (paired) off,” he said, sharing he didn’t realize, at the time, that the ones he put to work to represent Democrat had now converted to Republican.
He said both party chairs are supposed to suggest names in July and August. The lists were lacking, this time.
“Every July and August the party chairs are supposed to provide a list of suggested workers for November elections. Back then, not very many people were willing to committing to working, so some of the lists were shy of names,” he explained. “In asking the party chairs for names a number of times, there was still slowness in response, until right up to the last few days.”
Robinette said originally, his office had at least two Democratic workers at every location.
“But since, we realized after the fact that a few of the Democrats had actually voted in the Republican Primary this time, so that created a greater disparity than I am even comfortable with,” he said. “I thought we had this worked out. I was told that I would be worked with. So I thought progress had been made.”
Robinette said he had also hoped to have only four to five poll workers at the smaller locations.
“Obviously, more were needed,” he said. “According to the election code, when we are down to the wire needing workers — that is within 20 days — it is my responsibility to get things done.
“Typically I’ve been sending new applicants for poll working to the party chairs for their review,” he said.
Robinette said he’s definitely a believer in party parity and has strived toward that, but oftentimes it is not perfect.
“Additionally, often there is the need to overstaff if we can, due (to) trying to find time for poll workers to have a break and take lunch,” he said. “That is often difficult when the lines are so long. Very few have gotten to eat at any normal time and with long hours many are quite weary.”
Regarding equipment malfunctioning Tuesday morning at Hallsville Gold Hall, Robinette said the ballot scanner had been tested and was working fine initially.
“When it got to that location, it would not come on,” he explained. “That one is (now) solved.”
Despite some setbacks, Robinette shared how pleased he has been with the large voter turnout, so far. A total of 2,386 alone voted the first day at the county’s seven early voting locations.
“That was a pretty good first day,” said Robinette.
As of the close of day Wednesday, the second day of early voting, a total of 4,610 voters had been processed.
“That’s approximately 9 percent turnout for two days of voting,” said Robinette.
Voter registration has also been impressive with record breaking numbers.
“The voter registration has been pretty high as well,” said Robinette.
“We topped 46,000 this time. I believe that’s the first time we did that for Harrison County,” he said.
Robinette said all are working together to ensure everyone has their opportunity to vote.
“We will have a good clean election in Harrison County that people can be proud of; or at least I will die trying to get that job done — whatever it takes,” he said.
“I just try to do my job and do it right,” said Robinette.
He reminds voters to stand 10-feet from the door when waiting to vote. The elections administrator also asks for patience as they stand in line, waiting their turn.
“They need to bring patience,” he said. “If people be patient, (we can) get everybody voted one way or another, and their vote will count.”
In figuring ballots, Robinette said he realizes it is confusing for many, even poll workers sometimes. Thus, to ensure a smooth process, he encourages voters to please bring their voters card along with the photo ID that they need in order to vote.
“That’s just a double check to be sure you get the correct ballot for your residential registration,” he said.
Early Voting Schedule
Early voting continues today through Oct. 30, with a weekend option as well at the main elections office.
The seven early voting polling places for Harrison County are: Waskom sub-courthouse, 165 W. Texas Ave.; Harleton Community Center, 4335 Community St.; Hallsville’s Gold Hall Community Center, 101 E. Elm St.; ESD No. 9 in Elysian Fields, 130 FM 451; Woodland Hills Baptist Church, 2105 E. Loop 281; Karnack’s T.J. Taylor Community Center, 15642 FM 134; and the Harrison County Main Elections Office at 415 E. Burleson St. in Marshall.
Early voting will take place at all of the early voting sites from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. now to Oct. 16, Oct. 19-22 and Oct. 26-29. Extended early voting hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 and Oct. 30, which are both on a Friday. The weekend option at the elections office, only, will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25.