County inches towards hybrid voting system at the polls

Hybrid voting machines with a paper trail might be on the horizon in Hays County, pending approval from commissioners.   

But before a decision is made to purchase the machines, the court will need to choose between two certified vendors.

Hart Intercivic and ES&S both presented their respective hybrid voting machines to county commissioners June 4. County leaders anticipate making a decision on which machine to possibly go with before a late August deadline.

Hybrid machines allow for voters to cast a ballot electronically and physically, creating a digital and paper information trail.

However, the transition to the hybrid machines is an essential transition as the county hopes to implement the state’s Countywide Polling Program.

Hart Intercivic
The county’s current DRE voting devices are serviced by Hart, but the new machines offer a paper ballot to review before it is entered into a scanner.

“The scanner is actually the one that stores all the votes,” said Felice Liston, director of sales for Hart Intercivic. “…I hear from voters that they like the full-size paper ballot they get with our system.”

Liston said the machines are meant to be intuitive and easy to use. If the voter selects a different language, the paper trail will reflect that.

The voting machines are equipped with security locks and are never connected to the internet for security concerns.

“We never install remote software into any of our systems ever,” Liston said. “Hart doesn’t have the ability and nobody has the ability to get into our system.”

The hybrid Hart system is pending approval from state officials. Liston said the machines will last 12 to 15 years.

Hart’s voting machines are a three-part system. The touch screen panel, printer and scanner are all separate components.

But Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner Lon Shell worried about how this system would accommodate disabled voters.

Unlike the Hart hybrid system, ES&S’ Express Vote System (EVS) has approval from both federal and state governments.

More than 50 counties in Texas have purchased the system; 40 of those have utilized the technology during an election.

Additionally, the EVS is comprised of two components, not three. The first is the touch screen which prints out the vote, and the last is the scanner which accepts the vote.

ES&S Vice President of Systems Security Chris Wlasch said the company is partnering with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure the voting machines meet national standards for security.

Counties that have purchased the EVS are  Travis, Guadalupe, Bastrop, Williamson and Bexar.

Thoughts from the dias
Questions on security, voter integrity and curbside voting for disabled voters were raised by county leaders throughout the two presentations.

Hybrid machines will inevitably result in longer vote times because of the paper trail. However, both vendors said the paper trail is popular with voters as it gives residents the opportunity to physically hold their ballot.

The costs of the machine have not been presented to the public by the publication of this article.

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