Patrick Robinson, an election security analyst for AT&T, encouraged the Johnson County Commissioners Court to authorize a study of the county’s election system.
Commissioners expressed interest but took no action on the suggestion as it was not among the agenda items on their Monday meeting. Commissioner Larry Woolley, during a break in Monday’s meeting, said the court will almost certainly revisit and take action on the suggestion in the near future.
Although no county or state offices are up for election this year, Johnson County voters will be asked to weigh in on several state constitutional amendments in November.
“We in America are under attack by people who don’t live anywhere near our shores,” Robinson said. “They have access through hundreds of millions of cell phones and tens of thousands of computers to connect from one to the other to the other to the other. Just because a [computer system] is isolated doesn’t mean it’s insulated.”
“In 2018 the Elections Commission provided funds to the state of Texas through the Secretary of State to assess and remediate the election systems in the state’s 254 counties. Those funds flowed from the secretary of state to the Texas Department of Information Resources to administer the funds and manage the process of conducting these assessments.
“AT&T is the subcontractor to conduct the assessments. There’s no cost to the county for the assessment.”
Commissioners actually have no choice in the matter.
“Effective Sept. 1, House Bill 1421 takes effect,” Robinson said. “That modifies the election code, which makes this type of assessment mandatory for the Texas counties. This assesses the people, the technology and the processes used. At the end of that they will write a report card. They’ll have an assessment based on a set of standards so there’s a consistent view of all counties and all processes be it fully electronic, fully paper or some hybrid of that.
“The results of that assessment are delivered to a group in the county on a need to know basis. That’s a privileged document protected from being available for public information requests. As you can imagine, this will be pretty confidential information, a pretty intimate look at your election system.”
The study will include recommendations to more securely operate the election system, Robinson said.
“The county is free to take the recommendations and act upon it and has the freedom to do what they feel is most important with the information,” Robinson said.
County Judge Roger Harmon and IT Director Dan Milam both said the study is needed.
Commissioners approved White Recycling Group’s application to operate a junk yard at 980 Texas 174 in Rio Vista.
Commissioners have authority to approve or not junk yard, sexually oriented businesses and slaughterhouse applications within the county.
The junk yard in question has been in business for several years, Commissioner Rick Bailey said.
The business recently changed ownership requiring the new owners to get an application.
The property is actually in better shape now than it was under previous ownership, Bailey said.
Although the land fits the legal category for a junk yard the property is used more for recycling operations, Bailey said.
No road work
Alvarado resident Laurette Griggs took commissioners Larry Woolley and Jerry Stringer to task over road conditions during the public participation portion of Monday’s meeting.
“The northern area of Precinct 4 has road issues, Griggs said. “And these are not issues.”
Griggs cited drainage issues at the intersection of County Road 401 and Interstate 35W as well as poor road conditions at the intersection of County Road 810 and U.S. 67.
“On CR 810 south they put no thru truck signs, which is good, Griggs said. “But the road still has a huge chuck hole in a blind spot after the railroad tracks.”
Grigg’s husband, Johnny Griggs, said Park Lane, which leads to Alvarado Lake’s boat ramp, remains in bad shape and is too narrow for two vehicles to pass in spots. The street sits where county precinct lines 3 and 4 meet.
The city of Alvarado fixed the part of Park Lane they own, Laurette Griggs said. She called upon Woolley and/or Stringer to fix the county’s portion.
Given that Laurette Griggs’ comments were made during public participation, commissioners gave no response.
John and Laurette Griggs and others raised the same issues last year during Woolley’s election campaign against former Johnson County Republican Party Chairman David Kercheval.