Sign of the Times? Texas County to Install Panic Button in Election Office


[Image courtesy of vandelinder]

A little overtaken by events here today, so I’ll just share (without comment) this story from the Odessa American:

The Ector County Elections Office will soon get panic buttons designed to protect the employees in the office.

Ector County Elections Administrator Mitzi Scheible said a contract approved by commissioners on July 8 with Tyco Integrated Security would install panic buttons and an alarm system for the elections warehouse. The alarm system, Scheible said, was for residents who get too upset when they can’t vote in an election. The camera system was used as a way to better monitor their equipment.

“We’ve had some vandalism around the building (Ector County Annex) a while ago,” Scheible said.

Ector County Clerk Linda Haney said the installation of the system would cost $3,154.23 and the annual fee to the company would cost $515.36. Ector County Judge Susan Redford said employee safety was “worth the money.”

“If someone comes up here and I can’t calm them down, we go across the hall because a (sheriff’s) deputy is right here,” she said. “But he can’t always be there.”
Scheible said during elections, her office sees several residents come in who try to vote, only to be told their registration is invalid. Though most residents calm down after a few minutes, Scheible said she remembers only one time when someone tried to physically hurt an employee when she was still an assistant administrator.

If pressed, the button would send an emergency to the Odessa Police Department and the Ector County Sheriff’s Office. It was unknown when the panic buttons would be installed.

“The panic buttons would also benefit the tax assessor’s office,” Redford added, noting the two officers where next to each other in the annex building.

Ector County Tax Assessor-Collector Barbara Horn, who has held the position since November 2004, said she couldn’t recall any incidents that needed law enforcement assistance.

“We have had people who have gotten upset, but they seem to calm down … once we’ve talked to them,” Horn said.

With the influx of people coming into Ector County, Horn said the biggest complaint she hears is how many long the waits are in her office. Horn added she is also short-handed in her office.

“Our economy is growing and we’re seeing a lot of new people,” she said.

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