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Voting sign confusion continues

Profile image for By Britney Tabor
By Britney Tabor

Signage for the proper photo identification voters are to use when casting ballots continued to hang along signs with the old state rules throughout Denton County on Thursday.

The Denton Record-Chronicle visited polling locations in Highland Village, Flower Mound, Lewisville and Lake Dallas on Thursday. Of those polling sites, Highland Village, Lake Dallas and Lewisville had signs hanging for both the new photo ID regulations as well as the old. One poll worker in Highland Village said she wasn’t sure why the two signs were placed.

In July, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Texas law requiring voters to present at least one of seven forms of photo identification to vote was discriminatory and that it violated the Voting Rights Act.

Following the ruling, new rules were drawn up for what registered voters could present at the polls when voting. It allows registered voters who don’t possess or who are unable to obtain one of the seven approved forms of photo ID the opportunity to vote if they present supporting documentation, such as a birth certificate, utility bill or bank statement in their name, proving their identity.

Lannie Noble, county elections administrator, said he doesn’t believe the presence of signage with the old rules at some Denton County polling locations is intentional.

He said the old signs were included in the election equipment that was packed for pre-delivery to election judges. Because the new regulations were released in September, posters for the new regulations along with the Reasonable Impediment Declaration forms — which voters must fill out indicating why they’re unable to obtain one of the seven accepted forms of photo ID — had to be printed by the county and they were given to election judges in a separate packet.

Noble said he assumes the posters in the pre-packed equipment were displayed unintentionally when workers should have put up the posters in the separate packet.

“From what I can tell, it’s just an honest mistake,” he said. “I can see how it happens.”

Noble said as soon as the county learns of incidences where photo ID posters with the old regulations continue to be displayed, the election judge for that polling location is contacted by county election administration officials and the judge is asked to remove the signs.

Noble said though he knew of the signs in Highland Village, he was unaware of the ones in Lake Dallas and Lewisville and intends to contact officials there today to have the signs removed.

“As we get something we try to address it,” he said.

After three record-breaking days at the polls, in-person voting slightly dipped on Thursday with 19,443 people casting ballots and 671 ballots submitted by mail in Denton County. In-person voting peaked Wednesday with 19,753 casting ballots.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Noble said. “It’s great that people are voting, but unfortunately with people that are coming out, we’ve got lines.”

At the front door of the Flower Mound Police and Municipal Court Building on Thursday was a sign indicating to voters that the wait time was at least 40 minutes from that point. A line of voters snaked around outside approximately another 50 to 75 feet.

Noble said though he’s amazed by the voter turnout the first few days of early voting, the elections administration office can’t predict what turnout may look like on Election Day. Wait times are ranging anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Lines could possibly be longer on Election Day, he said.

In the first four days of voting, 83,255 of the county’s 466,474 registered voters have cast ballots either in person or by mail.

Despite record turnout, some residents are concerned about the issues they’re seeing at the polls.

Denton resident Amber Briggle, who is a member of the League of Women Voters, said she was livid upon learning the wrong voter ID posters continued hanging at polling sites for a fourth straight day Thursday.

Briggle first noticed the outdated signs Tuesday while voting. She complained about the issue to the Election Protection Hotline, led by a nonpartisan voter protection coalition, and also to Denton County Elections Administration officials, she said.

She said she spent time on a three-way call with both entities Thursday and expressed to election officials that the signs needed to be changed immediately.

“I know that they’re [Denton County Elections Administration] stressed and busy, but they could have been more proactive,” Briggle said. “Seriously, just print the right signs and tell everyone to throw the old ones out. It’s not that hard.

“They had months to prepare for this, and they dropped the ball.”

She said she wants voters to know they can complain if they see irregularities and can report their claims anonymously to Election Protection by calling 866-OUR-VOTE.

Officials with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office said it’s fielding between 2,500 to 3,000 complaints a day statewide and some have been attributed to the wrong voter ID signs at polling sites.

“We’ve heard a number of reports across the state though the number has been limited,” Alicia Pierce, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said of the outdated signage.

Because of the volume of calls, complaints specifically for Denton County were unavailable at press time.

On Tuesday, emails and links for the signage with the new regulations were sent to counties across Texas as a reminder of what counties should have displayed at their polling locations, Pierce said.

“We’re reminding counties to double check,” she said. “Of course counties want to do the right thing. I think they’re doing what they can to get that information updated.”

If voters identify any irregularities while voting, Pierce recommends they immediately talk to a poll worker or the election judge at the polling location to see if it can be resolved. Voters are also encouraged to contact their county elections office and the Secretary of State’s Office by calling 1-800-252-VOTE (8683) or emailing, she said.

Early voting for the Nov. 8 election continues until Nov. 4. Polling locations are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through today; from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Nov. 4.

A list of voting locations and other voting information is available at Voters with questions and concerns are encouraged to call the county elections administration office at 940-349-3200.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.