The Austin Chronicle

Dana DeBeauvoir Fought for Election Access in a Year of Barriers

By Michael King, November 27, 2020, Features

"I'm working on it," Dana DeBeauvoir told Wired magazine earlier this year. The veteran Travis County clerk was referring specifically to the heavy lifting necessary to accommodate 2020's pandemic-generated explosion of mail-in ballots, but she might as well have been summarizing her entire career as an innovative and indefatigable laborer in the nuts and bolts of voting systems. She is known nationwide as working to make U.S. voting systems easier, more secure, and more transparent – and in Austin as the no-nonsense head honcho on a consistently smooth and efficient election operation.

2020, of course, has been especially challenging, first because of the pandemic and the yearlong adaptations demanded by the crisis, and then more broadly by polarized state politics that have whipsawed election officials from week to week: masks required or not, drop-off boxes permitted or restricted, election periods expanded or shrunk, and so on ... triggered by the whims of executive orders or court rulings changing overnight. It's not exactly a thankless task – most observers understand the demands of her job and just how remarkable her performance has been – but she has also had to shrug off the wild, unfounded accusations of malicious or credulous partisans.

Throughout, DeBeauvoir has handled the changing demands with steely aplomb, impressing on the Commissioners Court the need for resources and solidarity, maintaining good humor while defending the vote against those who explicitly want to make it more difficult – and doing whatever she can to make Travis County voting safe, understandable, and efficient.

"It is very likely this election will break every record ever set," she said in one of her many public discussions. DeBeauvoir's own sterling record of dedicated public service is worthy of thanks from grateful Austin citizens all on its own.

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