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Harris County, Texas, Officials OK $54M Voting Machine Spend

On Tuesday, Harris County Commissioners approved the purchase of $54 million in voting machines that have digital touchscreens and produce paper backups.

by Zach Despart, Houston Chronicle / January 27, 2021

(TNS) — Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved spending $54 million on a fleet of new voting machines, choosing a model that produces a paper backup.

The court unanimously selected the Hart InterCivic Verity machine to replace the e-Slate devices in use since 2002, which were also manufactured by the Austin election software company.

"This has been thoroughly vetted. I'm very confident in the machines we're selecting, in that they have everything that we've asked for," said Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria. "They have triple data backups for election integrity and everything we need to keep elections safe."

The Verity model has a digital touch screen and more accessibility options for seniors and residents with disabilities. Longoria said her staff will determine whether debuting the 12,000 new machines is feasible for the May elections.

For last year's November general election, Harris County was the largest jurisdiction in the country to use a voting system that did not produce a paper backup, raising security concerns because elections could not be audited.

"I'm so glad we're getting paper ballots," County Judge Lina Hidalgo said after voting to approve the new machines. "What a relief."

County leaders had initially hoped to replace the aging e-Slates in 2020, but decided against attempting to debut a new system during a high-turnout election.

The Texas Secretary of State's Office in 2019 certified the Verity machines for use in elections. Other counties, including Tarrant, have switched to the system.

Hart InterCivic was one of three firms to bid for the contract. Election Systems and Software and 6HeadCorp, Inc. were the others.

©2021 the Houston Chronicle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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