Victoria County midterm election

Voters line up outside the polling station at the Victoria County Public Health Center to vote in the 2018 midterm elections.

A new state law that went into effect in September requires counties to post early voters’ names online each day of the early voting period.

According to House Bill 1850, the early voting clerk has to provide, in a downloadable database format, a current copy of the register to post online each day early voting is conducted. At a minimum, the voter registration number for each voter listed in the register must be posted.

The early voting clerk has to compile the registers and electronically submit a record to the Secretary of State of each voter participating in a primary, a runoff primary, a general election or any special election ordered by the governor no later than the day the voter votes in person or the early voting clerk receives a ballot voted by mail.

The law went into effect Sept. 1.

Margetta Hill, Victoria County’s elections administrator, said the new law isn’t a major change, because the same voter information was already a public record. The new law simply requires the elections office to post the information each day, she said.

The Texas Secretary of State’s office told the county’s elections office that it must post who voted each day during early voting by 11 a.m. the following day. The information is available to the public from the county’s website, Hill said.

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State Rep. Geanie W. Morrison, R-Victoria, said in a statement that the bill “is a smart government bill that improves the efficiency and integrity of our elections.”

The bill “allows voters to go online, if their local elections authority has a website, and verify their early vote in person or ballot by mail was recorded. We need to ensure people trust the process and HB 1850 helps that cause,” she said.

The Texas Secretary of State’s website also has the information for each county available in a spreadsheet for each day of early voting. The information lists the voter’s name, the voter’s ID and whether the individual voted by mail or in person.

The elections office will have a new website soon, Hill said, which will have the information for Victoria County posted as well.

Pat Tally, chairwoman of the Victoria County Democratic Party, said she thinks people are often surprised to learn names of voters are public information.

Tally said she sees how the new law could make people uncomfortable because it can more easily point out who hasn’t voted. On the other hand, she said, it can be a benefit for transparency and assist party volunteers in calling people not on the list each day.

“It definitely is positive for anyone looking to encourage voters and reach people who aren’t on the list, by asking them why they haven’t voted early and reminding them to vote on Election Day,” she said.

Bill Pozzi, chairman of the Victoria County Republican Party, said he doesn’t have a strong opinion about the bill one way or the other.

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, said in a statement that the bill was the result of a collaboration between the County and District Clerks’ Association of Texas, as well as the Republican and Democratic parties of Texas.

“That’s why I supported this bipartisan legislation, because we can all agree on the need to increase the security and transparency of our elections,” Kolkhorst said.

The bill was authored by State Reps. Stephanie Klick and Richard Raymond, and co-authored by State Rep. Valoree Swanson. The bill received unanimous support from the Texas House and Senate.

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Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, mtheophil@vicad.com or on Twitter.

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Local Government Reporter

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, mtheophil@vicad.com or on Twitter.

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