Potter County GOP cancels plans for hand ballot primary

Potter County Republican Party chair Dan Rogers announced in a press release that his party will no longer hold a hand ballot primary this coming March.

"On Monday, December 27, 2021 the Potter County Commissioners’ Court failed to pass the Potter County GOP’s resolution to withdraw from the Texas Secretary of State’s Voting Center Program, which would have made it possible for the Potter County GOP to perform a primary election with hand-marked ballots. Because the Potter County Commissioners’ Court has chosen to remain in the Voting Center Program, early voting must be electronic by law. The primary reason given by the leadership of the Commissioner’s Court and a very few other candidates for preferring electronic voting over hand-marked ballots was fear the election workers would either not count or would fraudulently rip up or discard any hand-marked ballot containing a vote for them.

"Had Potter County instead elected to withdraw from the Secretary of State’s Voting Center Program, our party could have used the Election Administrator’s optical scanner to count the votes and hand verify the hand-marked original ballots, as was done in years past. Clearly, some of our elected officials and candidates distrust the members of our community who would work the election and distrust original authenticated hand-marked ballots, instead placing their trust in coders over voters. Therefore, the only option left to us to use hand-marked ballots would require Republican voters to use two different voting methods, electronic for early voting and hand-marked ballots for election day, each with different polling locations. Given the aforementioned concerns, we no longer seek to hold a separate primary due to the inability to fulfill our purpose.

"Our commitment to hand-marked ballots will continue. Our position stands that an electronic vote is merely evidence of a vote as opposed to an actual hand-marked, authentic, original paper ballot submitted by the voter at the polling place. We will continue to further advocate for ideas and solutions voters can be confident in that require hand-marked ballots and are cost-effective, reliable, secure, and superior in preventing fraud," Rogers said.

Potter County elections administrator Melynn Huntley said "we moved away from an all-paper system several decades ago for good reason.” 

“Our office must be neutral and non-partisan. By design, we defend the laws and stand up for voters. The job of our office is to run elections in such a way as to not ‘get in the way’ of voters and to make sure that they understand the outcome of elections is ultimately and always in their hands, even if groups and individuals do not like the results.

"Elections depend on people. They have always and will always be dependent on the competency, integrity and efficacy of those who step up to work in the polling sites, election offices and state government. It is true in today’s world, that we must be diligent to protect the ballot from bad actors and those whose intent it is to disrupt an election and undermine the voters’ confidence in the outcome," Huntley said. 

Amarillo city secretary Stephanie Coggins also defended the current voting system.

"In May of this year, as you recall, we had that system tested because we had a candidate request a recount in the Mayoral race. That was a timely, costly, process but from that, what we found from Potter County was 100% accuracy in those results… We have a very high level of confidence in the current system.” 

The Potter County Commissioners’ Court approved the appointment of election judges and established the hours of operation for early voting locations during the March primary. 

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