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Voting company makes ‘coercive’ demand of Texas counties: Pay up or lose service before election

A voting company owner on Friday acknowledged making a “coercive” demand of 32 Texas counties: Pay an additional surcharge for the software that runs their voting registration system, or lose it just before November’s elections.

John Medcalf of San Diego-based VOTEC said he had to request the counties pay a 35% surcharge because several agencies in multiple states, including some of the Texas counties, have been late to pay in the past and his company had trouble meeting payroll.

He characterized the charges as a cry for help to get enough money to avoid losing key employees just before November.

“It is coercive, and I regret that,” Medcalf said. “We’ve been able to get by 44 of 45 years without doing that.”

The surcharges have sent Texas’ largest counties scrambling to approve payments or look at other ways they can avoid losing the software at a critical time.

Medcalf said that VOTEC would continue to honor counties’ contracts for the remainder of their terms, which run past Texas’ May primary runoffs, but that most expire shortly before November.

“It’s either pay now and dislike it or pay with election difficulty,” Medcalf said, adding that he didn’t expect any contracts to actually be canceled.

The bills are for 35% of two major line items in the existing contracts, Medcalf said.

Texas’ Secretary of State’s office said Thursday that it was consulting with counties about their options.

The biggest county in Texas, Harris, has already said it will pay its surcharge of about $120,000 because the system is so crucial.

Nicholas Riccardi, The Associated Press

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