Elections

Tarrant County considers $11 million for machines to let voters cast ballots anywhere

Tarrant County’s top election official is asking county leaders to sign off on an $11 million plan for new electronic voting machines that could be in place as soon as November.

If officials approve the proposal Tuesday, and the machines arrive quickly, officials have said there might be enough time to set up voting centers to let locals cast ballots at any polling place in the county in the upcoming election.

The 3,000 machines, part of Austin-based Hart InterCivic’s Verity line, include a touch screen, paper trail and scanners. The machines have been approved for use by the Texas Secretary of State’s office, according to county documents. They company provided the machines now being used in the county.

Tarrant County Election Administrator Heider Garcia declined to comment on the proposal Friday, saying he can’t comment until a contract for the new equipment is signed.

County Judge Glen Whitley couldn’t be reached immediately to comment about the plan.

Whitley and county commissioners will consider the request during their 10 a.m. Tuesday meeting at the county administration building, 100 E. Weatherford St.

Documents show local election officials reviewed several proposals before choosing the one proposed by Hart InterCivic.

Three companies — Election Systems & Software, Hart InterCivic and Dominion Voting Systems — sell the bulk of the voting machines used across the country.

This proposed contract calls for buying 3,000 “Verity Duo” hybrid voting machines and 400 controllers and scanners, as well as other pieces of machinery.

These Hart machines work by letting voters use a touchscreen to review the ballot and make their choices. The machine then prints out a list of the candidates chosen, according to the Hart website.

After reviewing votes on the printed out ballot, voters must put their paper ballot into one of the scanners to formally cast their vote and drop it into the ballot box.

The Hart InterCivic eSlate machines used now in Tarrant County are different.

They allow voters to enter a four-digit access code they receive when checking in and then use a wheel to “select” candidates. They must use an “enter” button to navigate the ballot.

When all their choices are made, a summary page lists candidates chosen for each race. At that point, voters have a chance to go back and vote in races they might have accidentally skipped or where they see errors.

In recent elections that generated large turnout, such as the 2018 and 2016 general elections, some voters complained about these machines, saying they believe they flipped their votes.

Election officials tried to replicate the problems and ultimately said the problem was not the machines used in Tarrant County and more than 80 other Texas counties.

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.
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