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How to vote straight ticket on eSlate machine

HOUSTON – If you’re having trouble voting straight ticket, state officials said it’s probably your fault.

Several people reported the issue to KPRC2 after it appeared that some of their choices were changed to a candidate who was not in the party for which they voted straight ticket.

“You can have total confidence that our voting machines are exactly doing what you tell it to do,” said Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart.

On Monday afternoon, Stanart gave KPRC a demonstration on how to use the E-Slate voting machines. They operate on technology from 2002, so don’t think for a second they work like your modern day smart phone. They’re nowhere near as fast.

His advice is to be patient.

“See how it's flashing and catching up with what I did?” Stanart said. “Every time you select straight party, it's having to go out and mark all 90 of those. Because our ballot is so long, maybe it takes a fraction of a second longer than in a small county.”

Some are still concerned about the discrepancies in the straight-ticket voting option.

“I’m extremely concerned that thousands of people have voted and if they chose a straight ticket option whether they were Democrat or Republican, their vote didn't count,” said Jose Hosea. 

The Fort Bend County resident said he casted his ballot early Tuesday to beat the Election Day lines.

“I was just about to click, I was, like, 'OK, I’ve stood in the rain for 30 minutes, I need to go, I feel confident that my choices have gone through.' But, something said to look and when I looked, I saw Ted Cruz,” Hosea explained.

John Oldham is the Fort Bend County Elections administrator and said he’s only received one complaint from a voter who said this happened to them but he believes there are probably some others to whom this has happened.

“That’s why every Direct Recording Electronic system in the country is required to have a review screen so voters can look at the ballot before they look at the cast button and fix anything they might have missed,” Oldham said. 

He and the Texas secretary of state say the issue is with users. 

“The system involves navigating using wheels and buttons and if people get in a hurry and they start turning the wheel, which is to move up and down a page and hitting a select button at the same time before the page flips ... In this case, they vote straight party whether it being Republican or Democrat and that cursor can land on the first candidate, which is Ted Cruz, and either if they voted straight Republican and deselect him, or if they voted straight Democrat, select Cruz instead of O’Rourke,” explained Oldham. 

He said people should wait for the pages to refresh and take their time and if they notice a problem, to call a poll worker. 

According to a written statement from State Elections Director Keith Ingram, the problem usually happens when a voter takes actions on the electronic voting machine before the page has fully loaded, which can deselect the prefilled option.

VIDEO: Official explains issues with eSlate voting machine

Here’s how he explained it in the statement:

"Specifically, the Hart eSlate system uses a keyboard with an ‘Enter’ button and a selection wheel button. The ‘Enter’ button on a Hart eSlate selects a voter’s choice. The selection wheel button on a Hart eSlate allows the voter to move up and down the ballot. It is important when voting on a Hart eSlate machine for the voter to use one button or the other and not both simultaneously, and for the voter to not hit the ‘Enter’ button or use the selection wheel button until a page is fully rendered. A voter should note the response to the voter’s action on the keyboard prior to taking another keyboard action. It is also important for the voter to verify their selections are correct before casting their ballot."

In a written statement from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, voters were asked to take their time when casting their ballot:

"The Hart eSlate machines are not malfunctioning, the problems being reported are a result of user error – usually voters hitting a button or using the selection wheel before the screen is finished rendering. The Texas Secretary of State’s office has already trained election officials across the state at our annual election law seminars, instructed election administrators to post additional signage in multiple languages, required county officials to keep a detailed, meticulous log of any malfunctioning machines, and remove any machines that are malfunctioning. We will continue to educate Texas voters using existing resources and urge all Texans casting a ballot to take their time, slow down, and carefully review their ballot before casting one."

Officials at the Secretary of State’s Office said they have no legal authority to force vendors to make upgrades to their voting systems if the systems are otherwise in compliance with federal and state law.

"Any upgrades have to go through the federal certification process (with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission) and then be recertified at the state level as well," officials said.

Early voting ends Friday. The general election is Nov. 6.

Below are detailed instructions about how to use the eSlate voting machine from VoteTexas.gov.

  • After you’ve been qualified to vote at your voting precinct, the election official will hand you a piece of paper with a four-or five-digit access code.
  • Take the access code to the next available voting booth.
  • Below the eSlate screen, you will find five buttons (Previous, Next, Enter, Help, and Cast Ballot) and a select wheel. Turn the select wheel to highlight the screen option “English” or “Español” and then press the “Enter” button. Voters with visual or mobility impairments, blindness or literacy challenges can use the eSlate’s integrated audio ballot reader, two large tactile switches, or a sip and puff attachment to navigate through the ballot.
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  • Enter your access code into the eSlate machine by rotating the select wheel until the number you wish to enter into a box is highlighted. Press the Enter key and move on to the next number. Once you’ve selected and entered the last digit of the access code, the screen will take you to the first page of balloting.
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  • In each race, select a candidate or issue for whom you wish to vote by using the select wheel to highlight a name and pressing the Enter button. If you change your mind, use the select wheel to highlight the correct name and press Enter (your previous selection will be de-selected). Touch the “Next” button below the screen to move to the next ballot page.
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  • When finished, you will be presented with a Ballot Summary Screen showing your selections in each race. If you want to change a selection, use the select wheel to highlight the race or question and press Enter to return to that page to make a new selection. Once the Summary Screen reflects your selections for each race, press the “Cast Ballot” button at the bottom left of the eSlate machine to complete the voting process.
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