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Jefferson County, Texas, Asks Residents to Test Voting Machines

Voters in the county have been asked to weigh in on the new voting machines that will be used in upcoming elections. Currently, only two machine vendors are certified to do business in the state.

(TNS) — Jefferson County residents this week have an opportunity to weigh in on which voting machines officials should move forward with.

The $3.2 million purchase will be funded by the Texas Secretary of State.

"There are only two certified vendors in the state of Texas," said County Clerk Laurie Leister. "And so both of them will be coming."

At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, representatives from ES&S and Hart InterCivic will be giving presentations to the public, hosting a Q&A session and facilitating demonstrations on the voting machines.

The event is expected to take roughly two hours. At the end, members of the public can fill out a survey about the machines. The county specifically has asked local leaders of major political parties to invite people with disabilities to learn about the machines and give their feedback.

"There's election equipment that's handicap accessible," Leister said. "We just want to make sure that everybody's comfortable with this."

According to Leister, both companies offer very similar services, with minor idiosyncrasies. The machines are part of Texas' push for all paper-based voting by the year 2026, put in motion by Senate Bill 1.

Within that framework, Jefferson County aims to to provide two ballot-casting options. A vote could be cast electronically with a paper printout to follow and be place in a locked box or a constituent can mark a paper ballot, which will then be scanned.

The survey questions to be filled out by members of the public will include questions about preference, durability, storage, the on-screen display, the clarity of the paper ballot and ease of technological function.

After the decision is made, the county intends to move quickly on getting the machines purchased. In order to receive the state grant funding, the machines have to be in the county by the November 8 election.

"We want to have them all in place as quickly as possible," Leister said. "We're shooting for August for sure."

The demonstrations will take place in the jury impaneling room, which is on the ground floor in the new courthouse near the security station. The following week, at 1:30 p.m. June 15, Jefferson County Commissioners will receive further details from representatives from each company.

"There are a lot of factors that we as staff are looking into with these machines," said Leister. "It's not just what you see. It's also our annual costs. Ease of use to the voters is very, very important, but it's also ease of use for the poll worker, and these other factors."

©2022 the Beaumont Enterprise, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.