Electronic Voting Machines May Favor Candidates on the Ballot, Not Write-Ins


SAN ANGELO, TX — County Commissioner Bill Ford, who is facing re-election Nov. 6, may have an advantage over his declared write-in candidate Gilbert Gallegos because of how write-in candidates are handled on electronic voting machines.

How can you cast a ballot for a write-in candidate using an electronic voting machine?  Can you still vote a straight party ticket in the November? What about school bond elections?

Tom Green County Elections Administrator Vona Hudson has her hands full fo the Nov. 6, 2018 General Election.  Hudson, in an interview Monday, said there are three school districts in Tom Green County holding elections, two declared write-in candidates and voters can still cast a straight party ballot in Nov. 6.  

I asked about how a voter can cast a ballot for a write-in candidate using an electronic voting machine.  The write-in candidate’s name doesn’t appear on the electronic ballot, by law has to be posted in the voting booth.  Voters can still cast a paper ballot by mail or in person during early voting. The two write-in candidate’s names will be included with the ballots as a “List of Declared Write-in Candidates” which includes the candidate’s names and the office being sought.  

In Tom Green County, the write-in candidates are:

  • Kerry O’Brian running for Justice, 3rd Court of Appeals, Place 6
  • Gilbert Gallegos running for County Commissioner, Precinct 4

If a voter wants to cast a ballot for a straight party they may still do so, but if they do, they have to scroll down to the races with the write-in candidates to cast a ballot for the write-in.  On the electronic voting machine, if a voter selects ‘write-in’ a blank line will appear along with an electronic keyboard and the voter will then spell out the declared write-in’s name.

Hudson demonstrated the process on a sample electronic voting machine.

If a voter casts a straight party ballot without going down to the write-in races, the ballot will be cast for the incumbent.  Put simply, a straight Republican party ballot cast is a vote for incumbent Precinct 4 County Commissioner Bill Ford. To vote for the write-in candidate, Gilbert Gallegos, the voter would have to scroll down to that race, click on write-in and then spell out Gallegos’ name.  The same would apply to the Justice, 3rd Court of Appeals place 6 race.  

In the only other contested race in Tom Green County Nov. 6, incumbent Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Susan Werner, the Republican, would receive a vote with a Republican straight party ballot.  Her challenger, Democrat Sally Ayana, would receive a vote with a Democrat straight party vote.

Many voters historically want to vote for the person and not the party.  For example, a voter wanting to cast a ballot for Beto O’Rourke for U.S. Senate and also vote for Susan Werner for Justice of the Peace could do so by not voting a straight party ticket and casting a ballot in each race.  Similarly, a voter wanting to cast a ballot for Sally Ayana for Justice of the Peace and Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate could do so by voting for individual races.

Any race on the ballot where a voter doesn’t cast a ballot by leaving the race blank is an undervote.    

Also on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot are decisions for voters in three School Districts.  

Water Valley ISD voters will select three trustees on the school board and the San Angelo ISD and Christoval ISD have another round of bond elections.  

San Angelo ISD voters rejected a $149 million bond election in May by two votes.  The board of trustees has brought back two proposals for voters in November; a $111 million wish list for additional classrooms, safety measures and handicapped accessibility and a $34 million bond which would include a 3,000 seat multipurpose gym at Central High School and new athletic fields at Lake View High School.  

Voters in the Christoval ISD have a $11.6 million bond on the Nov.6 ballot that would provide for renovating the elementary school adding classrooms, cafeteria, gym and STEM space

The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 6 General Election is Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018.

Early voting runs from Oct. 22 to Nov. 2, 2018.

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