TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — In an increasingly digital world, election security is an outlier, and paper ballots are seen by many as the gold standard in security.
After all, even the best hacker can’t break into a piece of paper.
For nearly two decades, Travis County voters have cast their ballots on digital machines and had to trust it worked. But now Travis is one of 122 Texas counties that will use paper ballots this November.
The hope is that having a paper trail will increase trust in the voting system.
“If the security were demonstrated but people don’t believe in it, then we haven’t done the whole job,” said Travis County Clerk, Dana DeBeauvoir.
The county spent $9 million on 2,000 ExpressVote ballot-marking machines. They don’t connect to the internet or count votes. They are ballot-marking machines that let voters make their choice on screen, then print out a ballot when they’re done.
DeBeauvoir says voters will check the ballot themselves then put it in the ballot box. The machines don’t keep a tally of votes and they aren’t connected to a server that does.
Election officials can count the votes manually or scan a barcode on the printed ballot.
Critics have raised concerns about the barcode method, saying there is no way to verify the information contained in the barcode matches what’s on the ballot.
The ExpressVote machines print 2D barcodes, which are like the barcodes on products at the grocery store.
The chief advantage of using paper ballots is the paper trail that comes with them. If a race is disputed, election officials can go back and count the ballots.
DeBeauvoir says Travis County will keep ballots for 22 months as mandated by Federal law.