Travis County’s New Election System Will Combine Electronic Voting And A Paper Trail

After struggling for years to design a new system, the county has opted for an $8.2 million package that will allow paper-based audits and recounts.

By Jill AmentAugust 8, 2018 11:04 am|

There’s been plenty of hand-wringing lately over how to keep U.S. elections secure – not just the democratic process, but the actual machines that we use to vote.

How can we be sure that after we press the big, red ‘VOTE’ button, our ballot is actually cast the way we want? It’s a question that Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir has been trying to solve for many years.

Her answer is paper.  

On Tuesday, Travis County commissioners approved a new, $8.2 million voting system, provided by Election Systems & Software. Another $1.5 million for additional equipment must be approved in the next few weeks. She says that in addition to providing electronic voting, the system will produce a paper trail for voters and election officials.

“Voters can have an opportunity to compare the electronic copy that comes from the paper to a paper record,” DeBeauvoir says.

The county will use the paper records it keeps to conduct audits and any recounts requested by candidates. DeBeauvoir says the new system offers “the best of both worlds.”

“We need electronic voting so that we can have vote centers and early voting, which allows voters go anywhere they want during early voting and during election day,” she says.

Electronic voting is also necessary to provide voting access, and an independent, secret ballot to people with disabilities, she says.

Travis County’s new system is not being funded from the $386 million Congress allocated to make state and local voting systems more secure. DeBeauvoir says that money was never intended for that purpose. Even though those funds are specifically intended to beef up election security, DeBeauvoir says the money is a laughably small amount.

“The amount of money that they allocated – the $386 million – is so pitiful,” she says “It’s basically a ten cent solution for a $25 problem.”

Travis County will use its new system for the first time in November 2019, when voters will cast ballots on proposed constitutional amendments. DeBeauvoir says she wants the system’s first test to occur in a lower-profile contest, before the 2020 presidential election.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.