HOUSTON -- After a devastating fire, the race is on to figure out how Harris County will run an election that's two months away.

More than 10,000 pieces of voting equipment were destroyed in a three-alarm fire at the Harris County Election Technology Center. The warehouse, located on Canino at Downey, caught fire around 4:20 a.m. Friday, causing an estimated $40 million in damages.

The building was used to store equipment, including voting booths and eSlates the computer-based machines used for collecting votes.

But with early voting scheduled to begin in October and the general election slated for November 2, 11 News political expert Bob Stein said time could be an issue for County Clerk Beverly Kaufman and other election officials.

The clock is ticking and all options are being considered.

We represent about 20 percent of the vote in the State of Texas. We have a huge obligation here, Kaufman said.

It is up to Kaufman to figure out how to hold an election with the machines you depend on to do it, now a twisted mess of melted plastic.

Options on the table include expanding early voting, borrowing voting machines and emphasizing voting by mail.

Here vote by mail is restricted to voters over 65, people who will be out of town near Election Day, sick or disabled, or in jail, but eligible to vote.

In some states all voting is done by mail. Oregon voter haven't seen a polling place since 2000.

The mission of vote by mail: Allowing people access to the ballot and getting those results quickly, said Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown.

In the 2008 general election in Harris County 63 percent of registered voters actually cast their ballots. In King County Washington, the Seattle area, all voting was done by mail and the turnout 84 percent. In Oregon turnout in 2008 was 86 percent.

In Oregon the ballots can be mailed back to election headquarters or they may be dropped off at a number of locations right up until the time that the polls, if there were any, would close.

We ought to always be looking at technologies that make it easier for people to cast their votes, said Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Bill White.

So why not do it here?

There is no question that it's preferred, said 11 News Political Expert Bob Stein. But this is not the time. It takes time to certify people. I'm not saying that mail-in voting is not the wave of the future, or Internet. But what we want to ask is: What do we do for November 2?

Currently it is state law that restricts vote by mail to the limited options mentioned. It is possible that the county could appeal to the Department of Justice if it wanted to expand vote by mail.

That's because this is an emergency situation that has the potential to supress votes. That is something that is illegal federally.

Justice can order special circumstance to ensure as much access as possible to the vote.

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