Travis County to roll out new voting system in 2019

Travis County

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After years of looking, Travis County will finally be able to bring in a new voting system for the nearly 750,000 registered voters.

On Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners Court approved an $8.16 million contract with Election Systems and Software, LLC, for a new voting system that will be used starting in November 2019.

In total, the new software, equipment, and related expenses will cost the county around $9.7 million to get the program running, plus approximately $400,000 each year to keep the program going.  

The Travis County Clerk’s Office said they were pleasantly surprised that the cost was less than the $12 million they’d budgeted for. 

“I am thrilled Travis County will be able to provide voters with what they have been asking for – the convenience and accessibility of an electronic voting system coupled with the security of a paper trail,” said County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir.

The new voting system is expected to provide added security and a system that can be used easily by all voters, including those with disabilities. 

The current voting machines have been in use since 2001. DeBeauvoir explained at that time, the voting system was top-of-the line, but electronic voting systems aren’t meant to be used for that long. 

Her office explained that the current voting system will still be used in the November 2018 and May 2019 elections, and that while the system is at “end-of-life,” it is still secure. 

Part of the goal of bringing in this equipment is to strengthen overall election security and to deter outside interference. 

“The Russians are coming, and that is a very disturbing piece of knowledge,” DeBeauvoir said, though she noted she doesn’t think Russians will be interested in interfering with their new voting system because it is decentralized and not connected to the internet. 

However, her office has been boosting their security and IT efforts to protect their voter registration system which is still internet-based. DeBeauvoir is also on guard for foreign social media manipulation.

“Our country is based on honesty and trust, we are not prepared for that kind of an assault based on social engineering, and that’s what I’m really worried about,” she said. 

In 2016, Travis County started taking bids for a new voting system called STAR-Vote™ but decided to scrap that system last fall. 

To educate voters about the new machines, the County Clerk’s office will kick-off a voter education campaign next summer. 

How it Works

1. Voters will plug in a card which pulls up their particular ballot on a touchscreen

2. Voters will make their selections

3. Machine then prints out a paper ballot

4. Voters will check that ballot to make sure their selections are correct

5. Voters then bring the paper to be scanned at the ballot box. At that point, a digital copy is made of the paper ballot as an additional way to check during recounts and audits. 

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