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Dallas County officials fund election security review ahead of high-stakes midterm election

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Christopher Connelly
/
KERA News
Dallas County officials voted Tuesday to fund a review of election security ahead of the November election.

Updated: Dallas County Commissioners on Tuesday approved money to review election security ahead of the high-stakes midterm election in November. Security for election workers, officials and ballots has been a major concern in many Texas communities as supporters of former President Trump continue to push his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

Dallas County Commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously during their regular meeting to allot $50,000 for the review. There was no debate.

Early voting begins in less than two months in races to choose Texas governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and control of Congress.

“With high concerns and fear regarding security both physical and cyber, the Dallas County Elections Department (DCED) is preparing for the upcoming elections to include safety before and during the voting process,” according to an agenda item for Tuesday’s meeting of the Dallas County Commissioners Court.

The $50,000 is for an assessment that “identifies, assesses and implements key security controls for protection of voters, as well as election workers.”

The assessment would also focus on “preventing security vulnerabilities.” The request said the county’s emergency management department recently did a review of the elections campus and found “concerns,” prompting the request to bring in a vendor.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who runs emergency management for the county, declined an interview request ahead of the vote.

“Due to the sensitive nature of the topic, and as standard with security assessments and emergency plans, we won’t be providing any comments at this time,” a Jenkins spokesperson said in an email.

The physical safety of election workers in Texas and the rest of the country has taken on new urgency since the 2020 vote.

Last month, all three members of the elections staff in Gillespie County in Central Texas resigned after years of intimidation and aggressive behavior from activists.

In her resignation letter, Gillespie County Elections Administrator Annisa Herrera said “threats against election officials and my election staff, dangerous misinformation, lack of full-time personnel for the elections office, unpaid compensation, and absurd legislation have completely changed the job I initially accepted.”

Earlier this year, an investigation into election misinformation by Democrats on a U.S. House committee described threats to election officials, including a Texas official who was repeatedly harassed and even told in a Facebook message, “I think we should end your bloodline.”

That official, Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia, asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to pass legislation protecting elections officials’ addresses, make doxing an offense, and requiring organizations to disclose their finances if they raise money to prove election fraud.

He also urged them to consider allowing law enforcement to treat violent online threats as real threats.

“There is a difference between saying ‘Heider should be fired’ and someone telling me ‘I think we should end your bloodline,’” he wrote.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at bjaspers@kera.org. You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

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Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.