New Texas election law requires 24-hour video cameras for paper ballots

Taxpayers to bear costs of new provision that will apply to Bexar and other large counties

SAN ANTONIO – A little-known provision within the new Texas election law will require 24-hour surveillance cameras to be used whenever paper ballots are being tallied in counties with populations of 100,000 people or more, like Bexar County.

“The companies are coming in and saying, ‘Well, we would need 11 different cameras put in the areas where we do our work and where we keep the ballots,’” said Jacque Callanen, Bexar County elections administrator.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said Callanen would brief the Commissioners Court at some point about the cost involved and how it’ll work.

However, Wolff said, like most state mandates, no funding was provided. He said taxpayers would have to bear the cost.

Callanen said it’ll be “a huge cost” since the county will be required to store the weeks of video for potential viewing later.

According to the Texas Secretary of State’s office that’s currently reviewing the new law, the video must be retained “until the end of the calendar year or until an election contest is resolved, whichever is later.”

It also states the video must be livestreamed of any areas with “voted ballots” as early as 20 days before Election Day, “when the signature verification committee first meets.”

The law goes on to state the livestream must continue “until the canvass of precinct election returns,” which typically occurs about two weeks after Election Day.

A spokesman for the Texas Secretary of State said the office is “committed to providing guidance and assistance to all county election officials to ensure compliance with the laws passed by the Texas Legislature.”

However, Callanen said the new election law still needs to clear the numerous legal challenges it now faces, before any of its provisions are implemented.

When signing SB1 into law a week ago, Gov. Greg Abbott said, “Election integrity is now the law in Texas.”

However, Wolff says the new law is “totally unnecessary.”

“I’ve been here over 20 years, and we’ve run successful elections every year,” Wolff said. “We’ve not had any serious problems.”

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.