Grayson County Elections Administrator Deana Patterson answers questions on recent elections process

Jerrie Whiteley, Herald Democrat
Grayson County Elections Administrator Deana Patterson shows off information about the new voting machines the county was considering purchasing in this file photo from 2018.

Now that the spring primary is over, some might think that the team at the Grayson County Elections Administration is ready to take a little down time. They would be wrong. Between elections in small towns and getting ready for the fall elections, GC Elections Administrator Deana Patterson and her team will stay more than busy right through November.

Patterson took a few minutes this week to answer some questions via email about election preparation and follow up.

Q. So tell me how you think the primary season went as far as voting is concerned.

A.The primary season went very well. We would love for more voters to take advantage of early voting. In Grayson County we have five early voting sites that are open for two weeks prior to Election Day. These sites are open for up to 12 days from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, except Sunday, which is open 12-5. If there are wait times during early voting, they typically occur on the final day. Taking advantage of early voting would be extremely helpful in reducing the wait times on Election Day.

Q. It looked like there was a turnout of about 25 percent of the registered voters. Talk to me about where that stands with regard to most recent elections.

A.When we compare turnout, we will compare like elections. In a primary election, especially in a Presidential election year and when local races are opposed on the same party ballot, we expect a turnout of 20-25%. This one was what was expected.

In the March 2016 primary, when there were no incumbent presidential candidates on either party ballot, the turnout in Grayson County was 33%. In March 2018, a gubernatorial election year, the turnout was just under 25%. Many factors come in to play and it is always a challenge to predict turnout.

Q. Do you think we have enough vote centers or too many?

A.Grayson County offers 23 vote centers on Election Day. These sites are posted on our website 45-60 days prior to Election Day. We are so happy that we are able to offer vote centers to the voters in Grayson County; it is an extremely popular concept. On Election Day, voters tend to flock to the centers that were open during early voting and those sites are always where the longest lines exist. In many areas, we have additional sites open on Election Day that are located very close to these early voting sites that never experience lines.

Our office is constantly analyzing the patterns of voting at vote centers. For the vast majority of elections the number of vote centers is very adequate; however, we may open some additional sites for the November 2020 Presidential Election to assist with the expected turnout. We encourage voters to visit our website or call our office to determine the most convenient site for them. Prior to the November 2020 election we will be providing additional information through multiple forms of media.

Q. What were some of the positive things that people said to you about the process this season and what were some of the negative things? What are you going to do to address anything negative that can be addressed?

A.Voters and election workers alike have given very positive feedback regarding our new election system. The county prepared for several years to purchase a new system and it is great to hear feedback that the choice that was made has been very well received.

There were several sites that experienced lines at the polling sites all day. If voters are in line at 7 p.m. they are allowed to vote. Three of these sites were processing voters past the time that the polls closed. It is never our intention to have that situation. We hope to come up with modifications at those sites that will allow us to process voters quicker. Modifications might be an additional check-in space, more machines, a larger room or a different configuration of the set-up. Our goal is always to maximize the number of voters we can process with the least amount of wait time.

Q. People might get the idea that you and your team only work during the time period that early voting and election days are looming. Tell me about the things you guys are doing over there all year long.

A.Thank you for asking this question. There are so very many things that our office does throughout the year to prepare for elections. We start about six months prior to each election and this year we will be administering the primary and runoff elections for the Democratic and Republican parties. We typically administer elections for 10-12 cities and schools in the county and we administer at least one countywide election each November.

The administration of elections includes reserving sites, hiring and training workers, ordering and proofing election programming and preparing and testing every piece of equipment that is used in every election. Equipment is coordinated and delivered to each site, supplies are prepared and there are countless reports prepared and submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office. The Secretary of State is the Chief Election Official for the State of Texas. Our office processes and completes the ballot by mail service along with mail services to our military and overseas voters for each election. Our office coordinates the payment of workers and we perform audits after each election. Some of these functions include other county offices that are instrumental in successful elections. Those departments include maintenance, human resources, the auditor’s and treasurer’s offices, IT and the commissioner’s court. We are thankful to have their continued support along with each and every election worker that is committed to serving the voters of the county.

Our office is also responsible for maintaining the voter registration records for the county. Grayson County currently has over 82,000 registered voters and we receive daily changes to voter records electronically, by mail and in person. We receive over 1,000 changes per month to process. Our office has a staff of 3 full-time employees including myself and we are able to utilize part-time assistance as needed. When we have new workers that assist with all of these functions, their response is always, “I had no idea that your office did all of this.” Our goal is to provide accurate, successful elections along with excellent customer service and a positive voting experience for the voters of Grayson County.