AUSTIN (KXAN) — Election workers are testing polling equipment to prepare for the November 2018 midterm elections.
The public process serves multiple purposes, including transparency at the local level, as well as ensuring functionality as part of state requirements.
Williamson County election workers held their public testing on Wednesday.
“We test the machines, we enter ballots, we go through our processes to make sure that everything works the way it is supposed to,” election judge Sandy Martin said. “It is a perfect opportunity for the public to come in and see this is how we set it up, this is how we print the tape, this is how we enter information, this is what you would do as a voter.”
The county’s elections administrator, Chris Davis, said the yearly process not only verifies the equipment is working, but helps ease public concerns about election tampering.
“It’s quite relevant today with concerns about potential intrusions on voter registration systems,” Davis said.
“We actually have really good physical security where we store these machines,” Davis mentioned. “We have a good 980 of these voting system machines across two locations in our county.”
Some of the security protocols in Williamson County include badge access, and “a very robust chain of custody and asset tracking system. Davis said keeping tabs on the equipment when there is not an election is “just as important as tracking them during the election.”
Workers in Georgetown Wednesday said participating to help ensure the integrity of our elections is important to them.
“It’s very important because free elections are the basis of our democracy and if we don’t believe that our process is fair and accurate than our democracy is greatly diminished,” Dwight Adair, who has served as an election judge for over 10 years, said. “I think that unless you have proof that something is amiss, one shouldn’t go around throwing theory is that there is something amiss.”
The Office of the Texas Secretary of State oversees elections in the state. A spokesperson said the agency has made multiple improvements over the last year to bolster election security, partially made possible by $23.3 million from the federal government.
“That money is going a long way towards increasing cybersecurity, toward increasing county training on cybersecurity issues, making sure county officials have all the resources they need both software, training, and perhaps in the future any kind of hardware that they might need to further secure their elections,” Texas Secretary of State communications director Sam Taylor said.
Taylor said the agency offered to work with each of the state’s 254 counties to identify threats to the election system.
“We sent out a notification back in August to all 254 counties, asking them to initiate the process,” he explained. He said 35 have expressed interest so far.
The state also bought subscriptions for cybersecurity training for election officials in all 254 counties, Taylor said, noting that around 150 have taken advantage of that service.
“That’s just something that is really important so that if there are new employees, or if there are a lot of employees in a county election office, that they are all on the same page in terms of what they should not be clicking on, what kinds of precautions they need to take to make your passwords are secure, cyber hygiene, and just general security procedures around the voting equipment itself,” he said.
Lawmakers are scheduled to hear an update on election security from the Texas Secretary of State’s office next week at a public hearing on cybersecurity.