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Behind the ballot box
by Joe Baker
Aug 02, 2012 | 1345 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From left, Carol Swize, Mary Hickok and Stacy Slayden run a test on a vote counting machine at the Choate Cafeteria polling location. The Choate location was one of 15 polling places set up across Karnes County on Friday, July 27 in preparation for the July 31 local elections.
From left, Carol Swize, Mary Hickok and Stacy Slayden run a test on a vote counting machine at the Choate Cafeteria polling location. The Choate location was one of 15 polling places set up across Karnes County on Friday, July 27 in preparation for the July 31 local elections.
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KARNES COUNTY – While many Karnes County people routinely participate in local, statewide and federal elections by casting their votes at local polling locations, very few have had a “behind the scenes” view of what it takes to make these elections happen.

The Karnes Countywide was invited to ride along and observe the set up and preparations at many of the Karnes County polling places on Friday, July 27.

Employees of the county clerk’s office, election officials, and workers hired for the purpose of setting up all 15 of Karnes County’s polling places met at the Karnes County Offices on the Square at 8 a.m. to go over plans for the day.

County Clerk Carol Swize explained that the plan for this setup involved working as two crews, with two rented Uhaul trucks.

The idea was for one truck to make deliveries to polling places located on the south end of the county and the other truck would deliver and set up equipment at polling places on the north end of Karnes County.

Most of the equipment needed for the elections had already been loaded into the two trucks by Friday morning, so after a briefing on the game plan for the day, the two crews were on their way to the polling locations including stops in Karnes City, Panna Maria, Gillett, Kenedy, Runge, Falls City, Cestohowa, Helena, Choate and Hobson.

The Karnes Countywide followed and observed the truck designated to make deliveries across the south part of Karnes County – a crew led by County Clerk Carol Swize.

The first stop for this truck was at the Choate Cafeteria in Choate. Choate is a small community located about six miles southeast of Kenedy on State Highway 239.

After parking the rented truck, workers began unloading a sizable collection of equipment which included a voting machine and ballot storage cabinet that weighs about 60 pounds and is roughly the size of a small refrigerator.

Other equipment delivered included a machine used for marking ballots which is available for voters with disabilities to use, if they choose to do so.

The ballot marking machine is about 30 pounds and fits in a case roughly the size of a large suitcase. A special table supports the ballot marking machine and is assembled by workers as part of the process of getting the polling place ready for Election Day.

After workers unloaded all the equipment from the truck and carried it inside the cafeteria, the process began of selecting specifically where to set up the equipment and any tables needed, and then the crew began setting up the machines and getting everything plugged into available electrical outlets.

Air conditioning was not available at this location on set up day, which made set up somewhat more difficult for workers under the hot and humid conditions on a late July south Texas day.

After about half an hour of work, the crew had the equipment and tables set up in a corner of the cafeteria.

Once unloading and set-up was complete, the next step was to test the polling place machines and equipment to make sure all would be in good working order for Election Day, July 31.

Test ballots for both the Democratic and Republican elections were marked using the marking machine, and ballots were run through the counting machine, as well.

On Election night, the voting data will be saved on a memory card and the memory cards delivered to the county clerk’s office for combining with other data to produce the election return reports.

After finishing set up and testing in Choate, the “south” truck then proceeded to Runge where the same process was completed for the polling location at the Runge VFW Hall. After Runge, throughout the day, several polling locations in Kenedy and Karnes City were set up, tested and prepared for the upcoming election. At the same time, the other crew delivered, set up and tested equipment at polling locations in places all across the north end of Karnes County including Panna Maria, Gillett, Falls City, Cestohowa, Hobson and Cestohowa.

According to County Clerk Carol Swize, there are occasional problems with the voting equipment and machines, but testing helps head off any problems that might occur before Election Day, and if there is a problem, backup machines can be delivered to polling places wherever needed.

Election judges at each polling place perform many difficult and important tasks associated with the elections. The judges set up the machines for voting on Election Day and are responsible for many other tasks that go with each local election that happens.

It takes a team of many people to conduct a fair and true local election, Swize said, and elections are one of the responsibilities of the county clerk’s office that the office’s staff take very seriously and work hard to conduct as perfectly as possible.

The county clerk’s office works closely with other government officials to get this job done, especially the office of the tax assessor-appraiser who is tasked with issuing voter registration cards, and maintaining and keeping up to date and in compliance with local laws, all the voter registration information for Karnes County.

There are many details that go with the process, Swize said, and she added that each one of these details are very important and each one plays an important role in seeing that local elections are done with the utmost care and attention, all of which is part of an effort to make sure that local elections and the election results are tabulated and reported as accurately and clearly as possible.
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