Special to the Bullard Banner News
The Smith County Elections Office is inviting the public to view new voting machines Smith County is considering to purchase.
Smith County voters recently had an opportunity to visit the Elections office, while members of the media, as well as election workers, city secretaries for Tyler and Bullard, representatives from Tyler Independent School District, UT Tyler, the Democratic and Republican Parties, and Lighthouse for the Blind, attended a recent demonstration of the new voter machines and learned how they work.
Chris Moody, director of sales for Elections Systems & Software (ES&S), gave the demonstration and answered questions about safety and security issues, as well as Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) capabilities the new machines have.
According to Moody, the newly purchased Smith County voting machines offer an easier, more intuitive voter experience.
The Elections Office has recommended to the Smith County Commissioners Court that the new machines be purchased to replace the current, outdated machines.
“These machines put the power in the voter’s hands to vote the way they need to,” Smith County Elections Administrator Karen Nelson said, when referring to a voter’s ability to change the language or font size on the machine when voting.
Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said the new machines will help to protect the sanctity of the voting process and is encouraging voters to familiarize themselves with the new equipment.
“As part of the county’s continued commitment to transparency and ensuring the integrity of our elections, we want to provide the public an extended opportunity to view and test the election equipment that the county is considering as a possible upgrade to our current equipment,” said Moran. “We encourage all members of the public to take the time to vet this equipment and ask all of their questions so that we can ensure our elections remain above reproach going forward during this time of transitioning equipment, just as they have been in the past.”
The Smith County Commissioners Court received a presentation from Nelson on Tuesday, May 1 about the two vendors who carry state- and federal-certified voting machines. The court is considering remaining with its current vendor, ES&S, and purchasing the new ExpressVote machines.
According to Nelson, ExpressVote was less expensive and offered more features that will streamline what polling workers have to do on Election Day, as well as make the process more efficient.
All of the machines will be ADA compliant, have battery backups, a voter-verifiable paper trail, and a voter activation card with a barcode, eliminating human error when selecting which precinct a voter is casting a ballot.
Nelson also said the machines’ efficiencies should speed up the counting and reporting of election night results.
Smith County Information Director Don Bell said he has looked at the new machines and he believes they will be more secure than the old ones, as the new machines have a number of redundancies and safety features.
According to ES&S, the operating software provides security access controls to limit or detect access to critical system components, maintaining confidentiality and providing accountability for each unit.
The hardware in the new voting machines is designed to protect against tampering, with security safeguards that cannot be bypassed or deactivated during system installation or operation.
Nelson said offering the machines to the public before the county purchases them will help with voter education and voter confidence.
The 350 voting machines will cost Smith County approximately $1.3 million. The company will buy back the county’s older voting machines for $339,000.