Taking One for the TEAM Taking One for the TEAM

state voter roll. She said the state tried to fix Henderson County's problems with TEAM, but any service improvements were short-lived. "They worked on it, they would get it better, and it would get worse again," Craig said. "Every election time, you could count on having a heck [of a time] getting the lists we needed for reporting."

Counties Find Alternatives

Henderson County is currently one of 39 so-called "offline" counties that match voter rolls daily with TEAM, but don't use the system for any other elections management. Craig said Henderson County runs its voter reports on software from Waxahachie-based Southwest Data Solutions.

"We had to start a statewide riot to get their attention," said Galveston County Tax Assessor and Collector Cheryl Johnson, one of TEAM's most outspoken critics. "We pleaded for them to take the system down." Johnson said her office found the old system, the Texas Voter Registration System, more effective, and the switch to TEAM dramatically slowed the voter update process. "It has increased our workload," she said.

In Travis County, trouble with TEAM surfaced as eligible voters were dropped from the county rolls because they appeared as residents of other counties. It looked like a confirmation of skeptics' worst fears - the new election technology was disenfranchising voters. Dolores Lopez, director of voter registration for Travis County, blames an imperfect match in the data fields as records flew back and forth between TEAM and Travis County's own management system, EZ Access, produced by McAllen-based Hamer Enterprises. Like most large counties in Texas, Travis County continues to run its own management software, syncing records daily with TEAM.

Tarrant County was one of the largest counties using TEAM in early 2007, but Elections Administrator Steve Rayburn said the county "jumped ship and went offline" shortly after the state switched to the new system. "That was in the early days, when they were having a lot of problems," he said. Tarrant County manages its 910,000 voters using San Diego-based VOTEC Corp.'s Election Management and Compliance System.

Audit Tabs Problems

With county officials complaining and dropping TEAM for their own third-party solutions, the state auditor's office took a detailed look as the May 17, 2007, elections unfolded, and followed up with a survey sent to all the state's 254 counties. The results suggested there was plenty of room for improvement; it detailed inaccurate records, poor system performance and lax security controls for access to the central rolls.

The audit also found security problems at the local level: Passwords for the system weren't managed securely onsite, and multiple users within county offices had access to the administrator login, making it difficult to track who was tinkering with the voter lists. Auditors suggested tighter security controls be built into TEAM at a state level.

Auditors found nearly 50,000 voters, out of 12.4 million in the state, who were in the database but may have been ineligible - about half were possibly felons and half may have remained on the rolls after death - though auditors couldn't confirm any of the ineligibles had actually voted.

A survey of county elections officials made it clear that after five months using TEAM, local users were unimpressed. (However, most counties reported a better experience than Galveston and Travis counties.) But the responses to the survey's last question made it clear TEAM was far from the revolutionary solution promised in early press releases. When asked, "Does the TEAM system allow you to do your job effectively?" the answer from 106 counties was "no."

TEAM Huddles for Fixes

By the time the audit report was released in November 2007, TEAM administrators had already responded to auditors' recommendations with a handful of fixes and acknowledged the need to fix other areas. The Secretary of State "generally agrees" with the recommendations, the final report said,

Patrick Michels  |  Contributing Writer
Patrick Michels is based in San Francisco and Austin, Texas. He writes for Government Technology, Texas Technology and Emergency Management magazines.