Election Equipment Advisory Committee makes voting machine recommendations
On June 21 the Hays County Election Equipment Advisory Committee voted to recommend Hart Intercivic’s Verity Touch DREs to replace aging voting equipment.
Hart Intercivic and Election Systems & Software are the only two vendors with machines approved by the Texas Secretary of State. However, Hart Intercivic, whose machines Hays County has used for many years, is the only company that provides an approved Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machine.
Although some in the county have advocated for the use of machines that will produce a paper-based audit trail to improve the reliability and security of the election equipment, committee members also had to weigh how the machine selection would affect an effort to improve access to voting on Election Day and possible adverse effects to the ease of early voting.
County officials have expressed interest in expanding the use of so-called Voter Centers on Election Day, allowing voters to vote at any polling location regardless of what precinct they live in. Advocates for the voter center approach believe its use could eliminate problems of voters being turned away if they show up to vote at a different polling location than the one assigned to each precinct. Voter Centers could also improve access to voters by allowing voters to go to less crowded polling places.
There are two legal issues that are obstacles for counties wanting in the immediate future to implement Voter Centers and to use machines that provide a paper-based audit trail.
One problem affects early voting only and is based on a clause in the Texas Administrative Code (TAC). However, the Texas Secretary of State can change this archaic item in the administrative code at anytime without the need for new legislation. Members of the election equipment upgrade committee believe that without a change to the TAC, the use of any other system besides the fully electronic Hart Verity Touch DRE system would be impractical for Hays County early voting.
The other problem exclusively affects Election Day voting and would require action by the Texas Legislature to resolve. The current Texas Election Code explicitly says that countywide polling places (Voter Centers) have to use DRE based-systems. Legislation to change this requirement and facilitating the creation of a paper-audit trail failed to pass in the recent session of the Texas Legislature. Until this law is changed, DRE-based machines will be the only systems allowed with Voter Centers.
Although there was some desire from committee members to delay making a recommendation to purchase the Hart’s Verity Touch DRE machines in hopes there would soon be a regulatory or legal change, the committee had to make a decision now so it would have reliable equipment in place for upcoming elections.
“I believe that every member chose what he or she felt was best for the voters of Hays County,” committee member Robert Smith said.
This recommendation goes to the country Election Board for review. If the Board approves, it will forward it to the Commissioners’ Court. Watch the Hays County web site and Facebook page for notice of a public hearing before the Court decides.
For more information about the voting machine recommendation, see the Presentation linked below.