Bud Kennedy

‘Rigged’ talk led to threat report: Woman had Coach purse, gun

Tarrant County voter equipment on its way to polling locations.
Tarrant County voter equipment on its way to polling locations. rmallison@star-telegram.com

Days of griping about a “rigged” election reportedly drove one woman to threaten gunplay, and can we just all calm down till Election Day?

A county deputy guarded a Fort Worth polling place Wednesday after a caller passed along a report of a woman with a Coach fashion purse coming to shoot anyone who was parked and using a computer, “because they would be stealing votes.”

A Tarrant County election official and a sheriff’s spokesman both confirmed that a deputy watched Longhorn Activity Center, 5350 Basswood Blvd., for anyone under the influence of vote-rigging hysteria.

A Tarrant County Democratic Party volunteer relayed the warning to watch for a woman with a gun in her Coach purse.

Democratic Party volunteer Lynn Johnson took the voter’s call: “She said a friend’s neighbor was going over to the polling place with a gun in her purse to shoot anybody out there who had a computer, because they would be stealing votes.”

Sheriff’s spokesman Terry Grisham said a deputy was sent for the safety of voters and election workers.

All this talk is just scaring people.

Tarrant County Democratic Party volunteer Lynn Johnson

The concern that a computer hacker outside in the parking lot could change votes comes from an April 2015 Virginia state report on the weak network security for WINVote touchscreen voting machines, sold by a now-defunct Frisco company but not used in Tarrant County.

A 2015 FoxNews.com report quoted a Maryland security strategist saying the machine’s outdated Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) security protocol meant “anyone could have broken into the machines from the parking lot.”

The report has been shared widely on conspiracy hobbyist websites such as Washington-based WorldNetDaily.com.

And we all know who likes conspiracy theories.

“A lot of call-ins about vote flipping at the voting booths in Texas,” Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump wrote Thursday on Twitter: “People are not happy. BIG lines. What is going on?”

Gov. Greg Abbott, being responsible, explained on Facebook how voters mistakenly select a straight-party vote but then press “enter,” changing the presidential vote.

Trump voters in Arlington and the Panhandle claimed aging Hart InterCivic eSlate machines were switching their votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton, a voter mistake Gov. Greg Abbott explained on Facebook.

Trump opponents in both parties now view the “vote rigging” claims as a business strategy to promote a media venture after the election.

Johnson said she wasn’t even sure whether to report the call.

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“All this talk is just scaring people,” she said.

“I don’t want anybody to be scared to go vote.”

Voting machines aren’t switching Trump votes to Clinton.

He is doing that all by himself.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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