The gleam of joy in the eye of many Texans thanks to the increased popularity of voting early — before the official election day — has been tarnished a bit thanks to software problems in the Texas Secretary of State’s office used to generate voter registration lists.

Every county in the state needs such information to determine voter eligibility, but it is the smaller counties that are affected most by the sluggishness of the system. Texas’ largest counties have alternative methods.

Scott Haywood, a spokesman for the Texas secretary of state, told the Houston Chronicle that the agency has received complaints from about 17 jurisdictions that did not get a complete report of registered voters for the May 12 elections in time for early voting to open Monday.

Haywood attributed the problems to technical setbacks in the Texas Election Administration Management System, a new state database that makes it easier to track people moving around Texas. He said the agency has made improvements to the system and all counties should have received a completed list Tuesday.

Better late than never may be a reasonable explanation for anyone except those who showed up on the first day of early voting and were told their names are not the list of eligible, registered voters. People like the mayor and mayor pro-tem of Prairie View, and many students at Prairie View A&M University.

The Texas Election Administration Management System is one of the state’s responses to federal mandates in the 2002 Help America Vote Act enacted after the folly of election counting in Florida in the 2001 general election. Because of the close race between now President Bush and then Vice President Al Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court had to settle the controversy.

No one is suggesting — yet — that the actual count is suspect. But the problems being encountered in implementing the reforms are doing anything but “helping” Americans to vote. Sluggish computer response time and delays in receiving database updates actually discourage voters from exercising this privilege.

It almost goes without saying that this should not be happening. It’s frustrating for voters, certainly, but it’s no less aggravating for the election workers and judges who are anxious to fulfill their duty on election day. Hopefully, the system’s problems have been smoothed out as early election progresses. Voting is important, and even if delays are inevitable, patience is the order of the day. Hopefully, any wait will be brief. But whatever it may be, it is worth it to make your voice heard at the ballot box.

Brownwood Bulletin