County offers trial run of new voting equipment

As municipalities gear up for the Nov. 5 elections, Hays County is offering residents a chance to try out new voting machines before they hit the polls.

Hays County Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson said in a statement the new Hart Intercivic Verity Duo, a hybrid electronic and paper ballot voting system, is “easy to use,” but is different than what voters are used to.

Since 2004, Hays County has used Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines for its elections. In late July, Hays County Commissioners voted 4-1 for the Hart Intercivic hybrid devices, with Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra casting the lone dissenting vote, the News-Dispatch reported.

Hays County leaders budgeted $2 million for the new machines, which were approved by the Texas Secretary of State’s office. The new machines allow voters to cast both an electronic and paper ballot at the polls.

Hays County’s new voting system will allow users to switch between English and Spanish at any time during the voting process. Hays County will give voters a chance to practice with the machines at several precinct offices.

Voters who need an adaptive device can choose from a rotating selection wheel, plug-in earphones, or a sip-and-puff option. Poll workers will also have a cart-based system for curbside voting.

According to county officials, the new system involves three machines. The first one, on the left, will be used to get the access code for voting. During an election this process will be done by a poll worker.

The middle machine is the voting machine, which will have a touch screen, that will ask voters twice to confirm their choices and then print a paper ballot for scanning, giving yet another opportunity to review selections.

To finalize the vote and actually cast the ballot, voters will place the paper ballot in the scanner to the right of the voting machine, according to the release.

The scanner will read the text, and then drop the paper ballot into a secure, locked ballot box so it will be available for standard auditing, should a recount be necessary.

Voters will know their vote is complete when they see the United States flag wave on the screen, just as it has with previous voting equipment.

“Residents are invited to stop by any of the county’s precinct offices or the Government Center to practice voting on the new devices,” Anderson said.

What is a sip-and-puff device?
This device permits voters who have manual dexterity disabilities to puff into a straw-like tube which causes the cursor to scroll up and down through an on-screen menu. Then the voter will “sip” to make his or her selection.

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