In my previous commentary, "Some Thoughts on the Evolution of Election Returns", I said that I will offer some simple improvements that county clerks, city secretaries and other election officials can make that will improve the election experience for members of the public, news reporters, candidates and the election officials themselves.
Basically, the procedure we at Guidry News Service have been using to report election returns in Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris and Jefferson counties has been to transcribe the numbers tallied by election officials and then re-post them to GuidryNews.com. This process evolved from the pre-Internet days of reading the totals aloud on the radio; and it worked pretty well.
However, now city and county election officials post those tallies on their websites, where they are available to the public on demand. Candidates, and those who follow their campaigns, can go directly to the source and follow the process themselves throughout the evening on Election Day.
Hereafter, Guidry News Service will continue to compile comprehensive lists of candidates for election in the entities we cover, but rather than physically transcribing the data to our website, we will provide links to the websites of the appropriate entities, including the Texas Secretary of State as well as county and city sources.
This will allow us to spend our time monitoring the returns as they come in and providing a running narrative as the evening develops. At the end of the day, when all the votes are counted, we will have a comprehensive report, rather than just a list of tabulations.
In order to provide better coverage we will seek closer contact with the election officials, so that we can better report problems such as malfunctioning tabulation equipment, delays in delivery of returns to the courthouses or city halls, and delays caused by precinct officials.
Actually, I have only one suggestion to election officials, and it is really simple.
Make better use of the landing page on your entities' websites.
In most cases, municipal governments and school districts contract with the counties for election services. Below are links to the “Results” pages of the five counties we currently cover.
Brazoria County: http://brazoriacountyclerk.net/recorder/content/Elections/Results.htm
Fort Bend County: http://www.fortbendcountytx.gov/index.aspx?page=1407
Galveston County: http://www.galvestonvotes.org/2014_Elections/Primary/index.html
Harris County: http://www.harrisvotes.org/AvailableSoon.aspx?L=E
Jefferson County: http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/TX/Jefferson/50692/125023/en/summary.html
Some political subdivisions do not use their county’s services, and instead tabulate the votes themselves. Of course, they post their returns on their websites, or should do so.
Each entity should include a space for “Notices” or “Updates” on the “Results” pages.
Then, those checking for the latest numbers could be advised of problems that may cause delays in tabulation. In addition, the space could be used to provide other information to visitors such as the date of runoff elections or recounts.
This special information space certainly would be of benefit to Guidry News Service and any other media outlet covering the elections remotely; it also would be a huge benefit to individual voters and taxpayers who are following elections on the Internet. It also should benefit election officials by reducing the number of telephone calls and emails from people seeking information on delays and other problems.
I have always respected the efforts of county clerks, city secretaries and their staffs who work very long days, under frequently unfavorable circumstances, to compile an accurate tabulation of the elections in their jurisdictions.
Our goal at Guidry News Service is to provide an accurate and timely report of each entity's election.