Liberty County elections administrator addresses questions about upcoming election

Liberty County Elections Administrator Klint Bush speaks at a Q & A session his office arranged on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

With important federal, state and local races being decided in the upcoming Nov. 8 election, and the integrity of elections being questioned across the nation following the November 2020 presidential election, the Liberty County Elections Administration Office held a question-and-answer session with local citizens on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at the Jack Hartel Building in Liberty.

Elections Administrator Klint Bush fielded questions from the public and these were his responses:

Q: What is the position of the Republican Party regarding hand-counting the elections?

A: I can’t speak for the Republican Party. We are a non-partisan office and handle all elections – Democrat, Republican, Green Party, Independent and Libertarian, and write-in.

People nowadays expect immediate results on anything. If you go to McDonald’s, you want your coffee right then. If you have to wait five minutes, then that’s too long. People expect election results instantly when the polls close at 7 o’clock. If you don’t check what you are doing, that’s when mistakes happen. If we didn’t have machines that printed out the results at 7 o’clock, we would have to manually count 18,000 ballots. It’s a slow process because the human body, the human mind, the human eye messes up.

State law says one person can’t count anything alone. You have to have four people count one ballot. That’s because you have three people counting – making ticker marks – and one person calling. We have done a lot of recounts in the county. Nine times out of ten, the three people will not agree. You have to have two of the three to agree on each ticker mark. By the time you’ve counted thousands of ballots, the eyes play tricks. That’s my concern with 100 percent hand-count ballots, but we can do it. It’s not a problem, but we won’t have election results at 7 p.m. on election night. It might be the next day.

Q: Is there a risk? Are we using Dominion software or a machine connected to the Internet? Note: Dominion Voting Systems have been blamed for having vulnerabilities that allow for election tampering; however, these machines are not allowed in Texas elections.

A: Texas uses two voting machines, period. In this state, that’s the only thing that is allowed. They are rigorously tested, and Dominion is not one of them. You have Hart Intercivic and ES&S. Those are the only two companies from which you can buy. It is prohibited by law to be on the Internet or to be allowed to be on the Internet. These machines cannot touch the Internet ever. There isn’t a port in here, there is no Bluetooth. These machines in Texas do not get online. If anyone tells you otherwise, they do not know what they are talking about. Texas is Texas. We are not Virginia. We don’t allow Dominion. Dominion did try to get in Texas a couple of years ago and did not pass state standards.

Q: What can be done to reassure voters of election integrity?

A: Go vote. If you have questions, ask. Don’t believe everything you see on Facebook. There are a lot of folks who just don’t know. Get involved in your government. Your government is only going to be as good and responsive as you put into it. If you don’t trust your elections, then get involved in your elections, then you will see. It’s your neighbors running the elections. It’s the seasoned citizens out working the polls. You go to church with them. You eat lunch with them. You see them at Walmart. They are not rigging elections in Liberty County or in Texas.

Q: Has a recount ever changed election results in Liberty County?

A: They have not, not ever to my knowledge, and I have been involved in a lot of elections in Liberty County.

Q: Are elections audited?

A: We actually audit every election, you just don’t know that. We actually audit every election. You just don’t know that. We have audited every election for the past several years, at least five years. We’ve had a partial manual recount. Out of the 22 boxes you will vote in this November, the Secretary of State is going to send me three different candidates, three different boxes. I don’t know what they are, and I don’t know the candidates (in advance). They will pull those randomly and say, “Klint, these are the numbers you reported. This is the number that your machine reported, and this is the number that you verified. I need you to hand-count these boxes and the numbers have to match, or we start opening more and more boxes.” They have matched every time … We test the machines three times before an election and once after an election to make sure that what the state certified is still on here and no one has altered the internal codes. It better be what it’s supposed to be so that we can make sure that the machine counted it correctly. We do a private test to make sure our programming worked, a public test, pre-election day test and after-election day test to make sure they are counting what they are supposed to be counting.

Q: What happens if I move from one area to another?

A: Nothing. The voter has the responsibility to update their address. If you say you want to live in Tarkington, you can vote in Tarkington. You have a right to vote in this county one time and in one place. You should notify the voter registrar’s office that you are moving. Here’s an example, the Escapees in Livingston – that’s 13,000 folks who live in RVs. They go all over the country but they say that [Livingston] is their home address. They get a right to vote. They say that is where their house is so that is what they do. They all register at the Escapees facility. Thirteen thousand voters live in that one box. That’s where they all mail their ballots. It’s so many ballots that it changed the dynamic of the community from Democrat to Republican.

You get to say where you want to vote.  A local example, a person called me. Her brother was running for city council in Liberty. He got to vote in Daisetta but lived in Liberty for six years. He used to live in Daisetta six years ago but never changed his voter registration. Even though I know he lives in Liberty, you know he lives in Liberty, it’s against the law for me to change where someone resides.

Homeless people get a right to vote as well. Where are they registered to vote? Wherever they say they are registered to vote. It might be the nearest stop sign. That’s where they sleep at night. That’s their residence. That’s where they are registered to vote. I am going to get their voter registration card back after it’s mailed but they are entitled to vote as well.

Q: How do you maintain the voter roll?

A: We work with the voter registration list every single day. With 50,000 registered voters, we are adding registered voters every single day. We are moving voters, folks that pass away. The county clerk has seven days to get me a death record. I try to beat the county clerk to it because that is a personal preference of mine. I watch the obituaries for the county, and I put them on hold and try to remove them from the voter roll. I can do that if I get the deceased record. Officially we take them off the voter roll after we get the record from the county. We do try to stay in front of that. If I know you have moved, then I will send you a change of address. If I know something personally, I can’t do anything unless you sign that document. We do try to find out everyone who is turning 18. I try to send them a voter application and say, “Here, you need to register to vote and here are some opportunities to get involved in.” We try to encourage young people to get involved in government. That’s how I got involved in government.

Q: Can you address what happened in the suit filed in the Pct. 4 commissioner race that resulted in a new election after a judge found there were 22 errors?

A: We had 20 days from the time commissioners court completed redistricting. That means changing every map in this entire county – every district. I have 120,000 people, actually 92,000. We know that’s wrong and they undercounted Liberty County (in the Census). I have 50,000 registered voters [whose precincts and voting boundaries] had to be moved in 20 days. We worked, we brought in extra staff, we missed some districts, and they were right on the line. The judge and the court said that we may – they didn’t say we did because we did a complete audit on it – have had 22 people vote in a commissioner’s race that shouldn’t have voted in that election. The challenger lost by five votes and the incumbent won by five votes. I do not like close races no matter who wins. I want the numbers to be big, I want them to be accurate and I want folks to trust the elections because it’s their elections. In this country, if you don’t trust elections, our democracy is lost. You need to get involved. With that race, we went through all 14,000 registered voters in that one commissioner’s race. We only found four that we messed up on. A lawsuit was challenged, and a judge ruled to throw the election out. I was okay with that because it’s part of democracy. Of course, I want things to be perfect but that is an option that the losing candidate had, and he should have taken it.

Q: Why are sample ballots no longer published by the news media for every election?

A: You can publish them but there are 52 different ballots. I live in Hardin, Texas. My friend over here lives in Liberty. I have a different city council than she has. The sample ballot is going to look much different. You live in Moss Hill, you live in Dayton. They are all going to be different. That’s four right there. We have more than 30 governmental jurisdictions in this county. We have 22 voting precincts. We have 50-something ballots. We put them all on the website.

Bush stopped the Q & A for a moment to demonstrate the security of the voting machines used by Liberty County.

“This is our scanner. It’s the most important machine that we have. Our programming is done in Austin. This is what programs your machines,” Bush said, holding up a thumb drive. “It’s a $70 taxpayer-funded secure zip drive that you can’t get into without a code that stays locked in my office in two safes, behind a locked door and with 24-hour video surveillance.”

Bush said that the Secretary of State is given a list of all of the candidates and races for Liberty County.

“All of our districts, all of our candidates. It goes from a safe into a locked box. I put a seal on it and only I know the seal. They get the box (sent by UPS) and then call me to get the seal information. I authenticate it. They have to cut the seal. They program all of these, seal them again and send back to me. Then I have to verify that the seal is intact (when it arrives) and has not been tampered with,” Bush said. “Then we also get the passwords to get into these in another secure setting. It’s an encrypted email system that the state uses.”

Tilting the machine so everyone could get a better look at the area below the locked panel, Bush said, “The only thing in here is two USB drives. You have to put this in here and then we have a master key behind a lock and seal. You plug [the thumb drive] in and you have to put in another key to access it. We load the machine. Once it’s in here, it stays loaded. Then it’s locked up and we seal it. The seal goes in the safe as well as a bank vault under 24-hour video surveillance. You can actually watch it on YouTube. When we make a live election, we start recording everything and it’s saved for two years.”

If it’s suspected that the machines have been tampered with at the polls, Bush said he will not hesitate to contact the FBI to investigate.

“If someone breaks into a polling location, I am not going to do a thing with it. I am just calling the FBI. I am not playing with that. We will have a reelection if that is what we have to do.”

At the polls, each voter is given a paper ballot. Once they make their selections on the ballot, it is then scanned into the system and the paper ballots are stored inside the machine. This provides an electronic count that provides quick election results that can be verified by hand-counting the paper ballots if necessary.

Questions from the public then resumed.

Q: Is it possible to rig the machines?

A: I learned in management a long time ago that you want to see where your weakest links are. When I first got in this position, I wanted to test our systems and see where we failed. I wanted to see if we wanted to cheat, how would we do it? We have tried and tried. The state also runs its own tests. We pass every test. The weakest link I have found is to get rid of the electronic machines… So, no, the machines can’t be rigged in Texas. I am not talking about Dominion but that’s why Texas only allows certain machines. They also have to manufactured in this country.

Q: What can be done to improve voter turnout?

A: I have spent more than anyone in this county on newspaper ads, Facebook ads, with all the media. I have great relationships with the media. I constantly try to talk to media, school districts, chambers of commerce. I try to visit every jurisdiction because I want them to know who is running their election. We try to get out in front of people as much as we can. There are 30,000 folks who saw our ad [about this question-and-answer session] on Facebook and we spent $500, but we have 10 citizens who showed up. People just don’t get involved any more.

Q: Are we going to continue using voting centers that make it possible for registered voters to vote at any poll location in the county on election day, and is that secure?

A: Our system is a touch different from most other counties because we demand paper ballots, and I love that. People like to touch and feel their ballot and we can count it afterward if there is a problem. Other counties, they just touch that and whatever the machine says is what it is. We selected a paper ballot machine. The law says you have to be completely electronic if you want to do vote centers. Well, that kind of messed Liberty County up, so what did I do an entire session? I worked to change the bill and we did. Denton County was in the same problem, and we worked together to get it done. I spent the entire summer in Austin pretty much, but we are able to do voting centers now and people love it. If I vote in Hardin, what’s to stop me from voting in Dayton if I want to vote twice. The law also requires that our poll books – that’s the list of registered voters – that’s locked so I can’t be adding and subtracting no matter who says what. That would be a problem and that’s how you would rig an election. My machines have to talk to every location. The voter rolls have to talk to all locations within 13 seconds. Every 13 seconds I get an update. It also pushes and receives information. If I voted, everyone knows I voted.


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