AUSTIN (KXAN) – Texas gets a “D” in election security, according to a new report by the progressive think tank Center for American Progress.
No state received an “A” in the report. The organization cites Texas’ use of voting machines without a paper record as one of the reasons for its grade.
Counties have the option of using paper ballots or the machines and the organization gave Texas an “unsatisfactory” rating for voter-verified paper audit trail.
“Texas’s use of paperless DRE machines and its failure to conduct robust post-election audits that test the accuracy of election outcomes leaves Texas vulnerable to hacking and malfunction,” according to the report’s authors.
However, some of the county workers in charge of elections in Texas say that’s not the case. Williamson County Elections Administrator Christopher Davis says all of their machines undergo testing to ensure what goes into the system comes out accurately.
“I wholeheartedly believe it’s worked well,” he said. “There are measures for us to check how they work and by law, we must have logic and accuracy tests for these systems where we have a known set of ballots that we have testers put in through the system and make sure and test that the results that come out of the system are the results to be based on the known stack of ballots.”
Davis said the “decentralization” of voter registration systems is also one way to keep voters’ information secure. Their county has robust backups and intrusion detection systems, he said.
“That means there are essentially 254 separate and distinct voter registration databases of the voters in that county that are mirrored, uploaded and linked to the statewide database,” he said. “A lot of states don’t have that. A lot of states have that centralized voter registration database without any county backup or county original source. That’s an inherent strength that I think that for a successful intrusion, one would really have to attack all 254 counties or at least the most populous counties.”
The Center for American Progress graded Texas’ ballot accounting and reconciliation process as fair. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said their office is always in touch with computer scientists and security experts to ensure their elections systems are protected.
“We never take our eye off the ball,” she said. “We never take our eye off any ball.”
Like Williamson County, Travis County’s machines also get tested. “There’s not one secret formula that determines how we know the equipment and election itself is functioning as it should,” DeBeauvoir said. “It’s a whole series of tests that are started before the elections and go all the way afterwards and we never take our eye off any of it.”
DeBeauvoir said though she believes voter registration information is properly secure, there’s always room for improvement.
“The idea of protecting voter registration means that we need to work on our firewalls and work on our voter registration databases so that we only allow the kind of traffic that we absolutely need for those websites,” she said.
On Thursday, the Texas Senate Select Committee on Election Security will meet at the State Capitol to review the use of voting machines, paper ballots and voting fraud and disenfranchisement occurring inside nursing homes and assisted living facilities, outside interference and manipulation of elections and the voting requirements of presidential electors.