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Record turnout expected as early voting begins

Monday, October 24, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

The end is near.

Early voting in Austin kicks off on Monday, heralding the imminent conclusion of 2016’s drawn-out election cycle, and Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says her team is bracing for record turnout.

Last Tuesday, DeBeauvoir told the Travis County Commissioners Court that she expects 488,000 voters to make their voices heard on everything from the presidential election on down to Austin’s $720 million transportation bond.

“That is at least a 66 percent turnout,” DeBeauvoir told the court. She said that 61 percent of registered Travis County voters cast their ballots in 2012.

DeBeauvoir said she hopes the two weeks of early voting will help manage the democratic tsunami. She said her office set a goal of getting 360,000 people to the polls between Oct. 24 and Nov. 4.

“That means that we need to see about 30,000 people voting every day of early voting,” she said.

DeBeauvoir also told the court that her team has made necessary adjustments to avoid the technological snafus that caused long delays during the March primaries. Scott Flom, manager of the information technology division of the clerk’s office, blamed higher than expected traffic volumes on the county’s website on a spike in the number of registered voters.

Flom explained that staff has “significantly” increased the site’s capacity since March.

“Similarly, the qualification laptops used in the polling locations now have upgraded software and hardware, and these upgrades provide the system resources needed to handle the growing amounts of data in the polling location,” he added.

Commissioner Brigid Shea voiced concerns about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s warnings that the election could be “rigged,” a claim he refused to disown during the final presidential debate last week. Shea openly worried that Trump is encouraging his supporters to intimidate voters at polling places.

“Let’s separate fact from fiction,” DeBeauvoir said as she teed up to debunk any insinuations of potential vote rigging. She explained that the voting machines and the system by which the votes are counted are not connected to the internet and thus are safe from meddling by computer hackers. She also noted that there is a state-mandated halo of 100 feet around all polling places in which voters are protected from political interference.

Said DeBeauvoir, “If there’s any disruption, they can call law enforcement, and law enforcement can be there in seconds to address any issues, remove any disruption.”

Photo by Alex Lee (originally posted to Flickr as Voting in Hackney) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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