Grayson County is moving forward with its plan to purchase new voting machines.
The Grayson County Commissioners Court gave Elections Administrator Deana Patterson permission to submit her pick for the new voting machines to the Secretary of State’s Office for approval. Patterson said the machines she is considering are already approved for several larger counties in the state so she is confident they will be approved for Grayson County.
“Over the past six months, the elections administrations department has done extensive research on voting systems currently available in Texas,” Patterson said. “We have reached out to other counties that have purchased and used these systems and we have worked with the IT department and purchasing.”
The county elections administrator added her staff recently invited some folks in to participate in demonstrations of two systems. One of them is made by the company behind the county’s current voting machines, Election Systems and Software, and the other is made by Hart. The choice between the two, Patterson said, was based upon concerns such as maintaining voter confidence in elections, ease of use for the voters and staff, security features of the system, storage of the equipment, training and support provided by the vendor, results tabulation, cost and the trade in value on the old equipment.
The equipment she is recommending, Patterson said, comes from Election Systems and Software.
“ES&S has supported elections in Grayson County since 2005,” she said.
Patterson said the new system will include express vote ballot marking devices and will allow voters to make their candidate selections in a manner similar to the machines that have recently been in use in Grayson County. The new machines will then print out a paper ballot that will be reviewed by the voter and then placed by the voter in a scanner that will scan in the vote into that polling places’ votes tabulation.
This system is called a hybrid because it uses both a paper ballot and an election marking device. Voters will not walk away with anything that shows the manner in which they vote, though Patterson pointed out that was also the case even when people voted with only paper ballots.
ES&S, she said, will provide training and support for the county as it moves to the new system.
Patterson said by going with the company that made the machines the county currently uses, Grayson County will get some money to trade in its old machines. She received permission, during the fiscal year 2019 budget sessions, to purchase the machines in this budget cycle.
Commissioner David Whitlock is the only member of the commissioners court that had been elected when the secretary of state offered counties money to purchase their first round of electronic voting machines. In the meeting Tuesday, he recalled that fact and asked whether the secretary of state was going to pay for the replacements. Patterson said the county won’t likely get that kind of money again for the machines but said she would keep her ears open for any grants that might be available.
Patterson said she will be back fore the commissioners with further information once the state approves the contract between Grayson County and ES&S.
Jerrie Whiteley is the criminal justice editor for the Herald Democrat. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jlwhiteley.