Calls for a paper ballot election system continue from some Hays County residents, even as the county’s Election Equipment Advisory Committee recommended purchasing electronic equipment.
Disgruntled residents voiced their concerns June 27 regarding the committee’s recommendation to purchase the Hart Verity Touch voting machines due to the lack of a paper audit capability.
The recommendation went to Hays County commissioners July 11, which held a public workshop on the matter. Discussion on the recommendation continued as of press time.
“Without an audit trail why even have a recount,” Craig Young said during public comment June 27.
Dr. Laura Presley, an election technology strategist for Travis County, said June 27 that Texas is one of only three states in the country without a paper ballot system or hybrid voting system. Presley called for commissioners to make Hays County a “clean election county.”
Dan Lyon said that the county should invest in paper ballots “to restore voting integrity” in Hays County.
However, Robert Smith, a security technology expert who was also on the county’s equipment advisory committee, said paper ballots constitute a barrier for possible voting centers, which the county claims voters desire.
The requirements for voting centers are to only have direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines. Voting centers would allow voters of any precinct to cast their ballot at that location, as opposed to the voter’s specific precinct.
“Under current Texas law, the use of a DRE is required for use in counties that wish to utilize Voting Centers,” Jennifer Anderson, Hays County elections administrator, said regarding the decision of the Texas Legislature to encourage the use of digital ballots.
Anderson said in an emailed response the committee did not have preconceived notions on the voting machine that was selected, which was a claim made by a handful of Hays County residents.
“The Election Commission appointed a well-rounded group of individuals that represented all the necessary skills to make an informed decision,” Anderson said.
In a special workshop during the July 11 commissioners court meeting, Anderson also responded to residents’ questions regarding the mistakes made during the 2016 election.
Anderson admitted that protocols and training methods needed to be updated moving forward to prevent similar issues from happening again.
“The new systems provide components that would relieve much of the human error factor that caused concerns in the November election, under my predecessor,” Anderson said.
Correction: In our print edition, we incorrectly attributed the decision to encourage the use of digital ballots for countywide polling places to the Texas Secretary of State’s office. The Texas Legislature passed a law encouraging the use of digital ballots for countywide polling places, which the SOS office is obliged to follow, according to a representative of the SOS office. We apologize for the error.