Election Office

A volunteer tests out a voting machine with a sample ballot at the Comal County Election Office on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. MIKALA COMPTON | Herald-Zeitung

A power surge shut down balloting at one of Comal County’s seven early voting locations early Thursday, officials said.

“After speaking with our vendor, it was determined a power surge while shutting down the voting equipment caused the malfunction,” Elections Administrator Cynthia Jaqua said of what took down four voting devices at Community Resource and Recreation Center (CRRC) of Canyon Lake, 1917 Farm-to-Market Road 2673 in Sattler.

Jaqua said the facility, scheduled open at 8 a.m., opened at 9:45 a.m. Voters who were turned away thought the closure might have been related to COVID-19, which Jaqua said was not the case. They were directed to nearby St. Francis by the Lake Episcopal Church, off FM 306 at 121 Spring Mountain Drive in Canyon Lake.

In 2019 county commissioners spent $1.42 million for new Verity voting machines, equipment and software from Hart InterCivic. Fifty machines are being used at county early voting sites.

“The voting equipment still maintains all of its votes,” Jaqua said. “Out of caution, Hart advised us to remove the voting equipment and replace with it new voting equipment. 

“The (other machines) have been secured at the main Elections Office until Election Day when the votes will be processed and counted.”

In 2018, Comal County was among 78 Texas counties that used Hart InterCivic Inc.’s eSlate voting machines for party primaries, runoffs and general election. Comal wasn’t among dozens of counties which had problems with that system, but decided to upgrade to Hart’s new Verity system. It purchased 275 Verity machines, software and associated equipment, which are easier to operate than eSlate’s dial selection format that confused some voters. 

The county introduced the new machines for the 2019 constitutional amendment election that November, and they held up without incident for that balloting and again during the March primaries and July primary runoffs. Jaqua said CRRC tallied 1,159 votes on the first two days of early voting. The malfunction didn’t extend voting hours Thursday at CRRC, which closed as scheduled at 6 p.m.

Earlier Thursday, County Clerk Bobbie Koepp informed county commissioners that 10,574 in-person and mailed ballots had been received through 6 p.m. Wednesday, the second day of the 17-day early voting period. Jaqua said 8,384 ballots had been mailed to voters and guaranteed the remaining 2,000 would go out by Saturday.

“We are joining the rest of the United States in this record-breaking turnout for early voting,” Koepp said. “Voters are coming out in droves. There have been a few little hiccups but we’re getting things out as quickly as possible. We’re at the end of the alphabet for the ballot-by-mail, and will (wrap) that by the end of the week.”

The final day ballot-by-mail applications will be accepted is Friday, Oct. 23. The final day for early voting is Friday, Oct. 30. For more, including sample ballots, precinct maps and lists of early voting and Election Day polling locations, visit www.votecomal.com .

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