Texas County to Unveil Touchscreen Voting Machines by November

Officials in Walker County are hopeful that the new technology will allow for the county to eventually transfer to a vote center county. This measure, if granted by the state, would allow citizens to vote at any location regardless of precinct.

by Joseph Brown, The Huntsville Item / April 25, 2019

(TNS) — Walker County has joined a small, but growing number of Texas counties making sweeping changes to local elections with the implementation of the "latest and greatest" in voter technology.

On Tuesday, officials with the Walker County Elections Department unveiled the new ExpressVote machines, which will be implemented in time for the November 2019 election. In that election, voters will for the first time in an official election have the option of casting their ballots through an electronic touch-screen machine or filling out a traditional ballot by hand.

The Ottawa County Board of Elections is introducing 160 new electronic “ExpressVote” machines, made by Election Systems & Software, a company based in Omaha, Nebraska.

“We hope that these machines will eventually take the place of the traditional paper ballot,” county elections officer Diana McRae said. “The new machines will mark a ballot card, but the beauty is that it still keeps that paper trail.”

If an eligible voter decides to cast a ballot via the electronic touch screen, the “ExpressVote” machine will present each issue and race on in the given election on the touch screen.

Once the voter has made all selections, the machine will then print out the ballot, which can be reviewed before being submitted to another machine to be counted and tallied automatically.

Walker County Sheriff Clint McCrae and Justice of the Peace (Pct. 1) Steve Fisher test out the new voter equipment, as elections coordinator Diana McCrae looks on during a demonstration on Tuesday at the Walker County Annex. Submitted

“I think it will speed things up,” McCrae said. “One thing that is also best about the latest and greatest technology is that we can get the upgrades instantaneously as they are approved by the state.”

Officials are hopeful that the new technology will allow for the county to eventually transfer to a vote center county. This measure, if granted by the state, would decrease the number of polling places, while also allowing citizens the ability to vote at any location regardless of precinct.

That method will be tested in early voting for the November election, as the traditional paper ballots will not be available.

“We will have all of precincts loaded, so it doesn’t matter which machine you use,” McCrae added. “When a voter is certified they are given a card with a barcode, which will tell the machine was precinct they are voting in.”

However, election officials will not be able to remove the traditional paper ballot until the 2021 election

“The goal is to transition voters to the new system and eventually the paper ballot will go away,” McCrae said. “We are expecting a high voter turnout for the Presidential election, so we want to get through that election before making the full transition.”

The general public will have an opportunity to test out the new equipment prior to the election with four demonstrations planned for Tuesday, May 14 at the Walker County Storm Shelter, 455 Hwy. 75 N. Voters can choose to attend demonstrations at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. or 5:30 p.m.

The elections office will also be offering demonstrations throughout the summer, beginning June 3 at the Walker County Annex from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. each day.

©2019 The Huntsville Item (Huntsville, Texas). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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