Category: O’Brien’s Blog

Harris County Voters To Test $1 Million iPad Voting Poll Book







November 6, 2017

At almost 100 voting locations, election officials in Harris County will be testing a new way for voters to sign-in at polling places. As it stands right now on Election Day, a Harris County voter goes to their voting precinct, an assistant helps them find their name in a paper poll book, they sign in and proceed to vote.

But, at the testing locations, voters will instead use a system in which they electronically sign in to vote using an iPad. The experts call it an electronic poll book. And if the system works, it may be the way all voters sign in to cast their ballot in future elections.

“As you know last year we had people waiting in line. I don’t like people waiting in lines, especially when there’s a voting booth sitting empty. So the electronic poll books allows us to qualify the voters much faster,” said the Clerk of Harris County Stan Stanart. Since 2010 Stanart has served as the chief election officer for the county.

In addition to saving time voting the major advantage of an electronic poll book for voters is that it allows them the freedom to cast their ballot at any polling location, or Voting Center, in the county. If that system sounds familiar, it is. It’s the system used for early voting in Harris County.

There doesn’t seem to be any critics of voting centers and the electronic poll book, just how long it’s taken to get the system into place. Kevin Hoffman is a Democratic Chair in Precinct 207. He addressed the Commissioner’s Court in June.

“We received a group of iPads that have been in the custody of the County Clerk’s Office that have been gone unused. These to my knowledge are still in storage,” said Hoffman.

According to previous news reports Stanart purchased 2,400 iPads, at a cost of over $1,000,000, in July of 2015. Stanart admits most of the iPads remain in the boxes they were shipped in, and told Judge Ed Emmett the early voting poll book currently used wouldn’t work on Election Day.

“It just will not scale to be able to handle Harris County,” Stanart told the Commissioner’s Court on June 27.

The problem Stanart said is that on an Election Day like today, Harris County will operate 735 voting locations. And he said there’s currently no software that can handle that many voting locations. (The County operated 45 “Voting Centers” for early voting this fall.)

But others disagree. Ben Martin is the Chief Operating Officer for VR Systems, based in Tallahassee, FL which sells software for such iPad voting systems, software Harris County does not have.

“Our software is capable of handling more than two-point-four-million voters. Our largest jurisdiction currently is Miami-Dade County and that has one-point-six-million,” Martin said. Martin adds that VR Systems is pursuing the business of a jurisdiction with over 5,000,000 voters using an electronic poll book and that their software can handle early, and election day voting.

The city of Chicago sits in Cook County Illinois. And while the city is separated from the County on Election Day, the County said it still has over 2,000,000 voters outside of Chicago.

VO-Tech, based in San Diego, CA provides the electronic poll book for Cook County.

They also provide voting software to Harris County, but not for the iPads. President John Metcalf said they’ve never received a “Request for Proposal” from the County to provide an electronic poll book. Neither has VR Systems.

Stanart estimates he’s saving the County money by writing its own software. “It’s taken a while, taken uh, oh gosh I don’t know a year and a half, two years, I mean it’s been a good while, we’ve working on it diligently,” he said.

In Arizona, Maricopa County has 2,200,000 voters, though fewer people voting on Election Day than Harris County. Adrian Fontes oversees voting there and said they wrote their own software, in less than six months.

And what Fontes and others can’t understand, is why Stanart would purchase so many iPads before a software program that could handle Harris County’s size, was created. “I don’t want to second guess Stan but maybe he got deal on those things and went out and bought ‘em and said, Hey we’re gonna work them into the system bit by bit,” he said.

Stanart said he doesn’t think the County saved money by purchasing the iPads three years before Voting Centers would become Election Day reality, and second guesses himself.

“In hindsight, yeah I would have not bought ‘em quite as early as we did, but we’re still going use them. They work fast. They work great. They’ll serve the purpose. They have lots of life left in them,” said Stanart who plans to have all the iPads in use by 2018.

Texans Should Show Interest In Kaepernick

FEBRUARY 28, 2016

Are they or aren’t they? Not long after Ian Rapaport of the NFL Network tweeted that the Texans and Browns were interested in San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick if the 49ers were not, The Chronicle’s John McClain shot down the idea.


How likely it is that San Francisco actually tries to trade Kaepernick is anyone's guess. Just last week new head coach Chip Kelly said, “It’s never been a question [keeping Kaepernick]. I’m excited to work with Colin.” About six hours later reports surfaced that Kaepernick’s agents requested permission to seek a trade.

Assuming that Kaepernick is attainable, why wouldn’t the Texans be interested? Owner Bob McNair has repeated multiple times his desire to obtain a franchise QB this offseason. It shouldn’t have to be via the draft.

Kaepernick has a better winning percentage, completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception rate, and quarterback rating than any QB short of Tom Brady that Bill O’Brien has managed.

That O’Brien has compiled a 16-16 record (0-1 in playoffs) with seven different starting quarterbacks is both recognition of his head coaching/quarterback guru skill, and an indictment of the talent procuring process of the Texans.

With the 22nd pick it’s impossible to believe the Texans can acquire either Carson Wenz or Jared Goff the “can’t miss” quarterback prospects in the ’16 draft. So instead of reaching with a first round pick, why not see what your quarterback whisperer can do with a QB that actually has some skills?

Sportsmanship, Try It Cam


FEBRUARY 8, 2016

Once upon a time, sporting events were as much about building character, learning fairness and how to conduct yourself as they were about perfecting a skill. Today it would appear that "sportsmanship" has little to do with sports.

Instead, sports are all about building self-worth and personal enjoyment. Heaven help anything that gets in the way of those two goals.

Winning? Well, that's somewhere on the list of goals but certainly not above self esteem and fun.

I hate to boil this post Super Bowl discussion down to it's simplest form - okay no I don't mind at all. This love or hate of Cam has nothing (or very little) to do with race, it's about old school versus new school. Should our athletes display sportsmanship in victory - and defeat, or should they be completely self-absorbed and we can then be either entertained or outraged by their actions?

Newton acted as he wanted in running up a 17-1 record showing no regard for the feelings of those the Panthers were beating along the way. Cam simply called it "having fun" and anyone who saw it for what it truly was, a classless acts completely devoid of sportsmanship, were painted as racists. (Now, full disclosure, there are still too many fans that are racists and don't like Cam because of the color of his skin.)

Let me see if I can highlight the difference between old school versus new school as opposed to racism in viewing the public's love or hate for Cam Newton. Let's compare the general feeling most NFL fans have for Russell Wilson and Johnny Manziel. Wilson, a black person who carries himself in a way most old school fans would want to see their quarterback behave, is generally liked and respected. Manziel, who seems to care little about the consequences of his actions, is extremely polarizing. Much like Newton you either love or hate Johnny Football, not because of the color of his skin but because of the way in which he seems to show no regard for anyone other than himself.

Newton visiting hospitals or donating footballs to kids after touchdowns, much like the thousands of autographs Manziel gave freely to memorabilia dealers while at A&M, doesn't change the way they carry themselves as celebrities.

Newton couldn't show any class or sportsmanship in victory so it comes as no surprise that he couldn't handle defeat without petulance and the behavior of a spoiled brat.

I can do without the "dab" but I still enjoy watching Newton play. He's become a better NFL quarterback than I thought he'd be. He earned the MVP this season and I enjoyed watching him play. I also enjoyed watching Manziel at A&M and was hoping to see that QB in Cleveland, but his immaturity and personal demons seemed to have taken that opportunity away.

But don't blame the player. The "old school generation" is the one that can't understand why their children seem entitled and lacking grace and understanding. After-all they gave them 4' trophies for participating in tee-ball at five years old because the risk of having their kids earn a trophy by winning might have hurt their self-esteem if they actually had to, you know, earn it by winning.

College Football Restructuring At The Top


NOVEMBER 23, 2015

It seems inevitable now that a coach with a 60-27 record in SEC play (110-32 overall), two conference titles, three division titles and a BCS title will lose his job a week from today. He might be joined by the dean of SEC coaches who has won 144 games in 15 seasons, along with two SEC titles and three division titles.

If the reports are true, and guys like Scott Rabalais of The Baton Rouge Advocate and Tommy Krysan of Pelican Sports Network are respected and trustworthy, then it would seem Les Miles will coach the LSU Tigers once more, when they host Texas A&M this Saturday. Will Mark Richt be coaching his last game as Georgia’s head coach next Saturday when the Bulldogs play Georgia Tech in Atlanta? (Lose to the 3-8 Yellow Jackets and that answer will be an easy YES.)

Regardless of how competitve college football has become, it is hard to believe a coach with a .775 winning percentage (Miles) or a .738 winning percentage (Richt) would be in severe danger of losing his job, particularly when both teams stand at 8-3 on the 2015 season and are favorites to finish 9-3. (As of this writing LSU is a 5 1/2 point favorite over A&M, the UGA-GT game is presently “off” the books.)
One the other hand, after 15 or 11 years at their respective schools, the decision-makers (AD’s, school presidents, and most importantly - influential alumni) at Georgia and LSU can’t be accused of making hasty decisions.

At LSU where reports today say that AD Joe Alleva has the boosters willing to pay Miles’ $15-million buyout if necessary, the “Mad-Hatter” has always been an enigma. On paper, the record speaks for itself. Using the “eye test” the results also speak volumes, just not flattering ones.

Whether it be poor preparation, clock management, or a general look of being unprepared, Miles has often looked “in over his head” on the LSU sideline. No team in college football during Les Miles tenure has been more talented (including Alabama). Miles deserves the credit from procuring that talent, but also the condemnation for not doing enough with the talent.

In Athens, GA, Richt can be viewed much the same way; a “players coach” that does an outstanding job recruiting, but even more damning for Richt, Georgia seems to lose at least a couple games each year that have no business losing. The Bulldogs were the SEC East favorites this year, but will likely finish third in a weak Eastern division.

Both Richt and Miles have also committed the fatal sin of looking bad in the games that matter most. Richt is just 5-10 against bitter rival Florida, and has been embarrassed three straight times by Alabama. (That’s 1-3 for Richt vs. Saban)

Miles has also found it difficult to beat a Saban-led Crimson Tide. Though 6-6 overall against Bama, LSU has dropped five straight    to Alabama.

I’ve never been a fan of the mindset, “We can’t fire [him/her] who will we get to coach?!” That’s a loser mentality, if you want to compete for national titles - which UGA & LSU clearly do, and more importantly should - ACT LIKE IT!

However, the “who will you get” syndrome applies here. The Dawgs and Tigers are not .500 teams, they are programs winning 75% of their games under their current coaches. A change cannot be made for change sake.

Word on the bayou is that Jimbo Fisher tops the LSU wish list. When asked today about the rumors, Fisher appropriately said he wouldn’t comment on them out of respect for the players at both Florida State and LSU. (The non-denial, denial.) Solid move Jimbo. Even more solid, and necessary, is for LSU to already have a deal in place for Fisher.

Same goes for Claude Felton, athletic director at UGA. If the timing is right for a change at head coach, Georgia better have a confirmation from Richt’s replacement already in place.

Both programs, fan bases, and head coaches deserve as classy a turnover as possible.