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County selects new voting system
Tuesday morning, the Hays County Commissioners Court voted to select Hart InterCivic’s Verity Duo system as the county’s new voting system. Verity Duo is a hybrid system, meaning it includes a paper-ballot verification system. Voters will be able to ensure their choices are correct after reviewing a printed paper ballot, which will, in turn, be scanned into a precinct scanner. The new paper review system will also allow county election officials to have an audit trail.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe, Precinct 2 Commissioner Mark Jones, Precinct 3 Commissioner Lon Shell and Precinct 4 Commissioner Walt Smith voted to select Hart’s system, while County Judge Ruben Becerra voted against Hart.
The selected system will offer a bilingual option to voters, which allows individuals to make their selections in Spanish as well as review their selections with a printed ballot in Spanish.
Commissioner Smith said Hays County must make a conscious effort to ensure that if someone wants to vote in Spanish, they can.
“I think every person should have the opportunity to vote…” he said. “That's a decision that has been made statewide and for us here I think it's an important one.”
While both systems offered a Spanish ballot option as well as ADA-accessible options, the court ultimately voted to select Hart’s system. According to Felice Liston, director of sales for Hart InterCivic, every device can be used as an ADA system.
“The way that you saw it in the workshop, one was set up as an ADA device, one was set up as a standard voting device, but all of the devices, whether standard or ADA, could be used by the ADA community,” Liston said.
Commissioners discussed the cost of each system after receiving a sheet of information breaking down each system’s price, which projected that ES&S’s system would cost around $230,000 more than Hart’s system. According to Jennifer Anderson, the county budgeted $2 million for the new system, and Hart’s Verity Duo system is expected to cost less than the $2 million budgeted. The price for ballots and ADA conversion for each machine was not included in the estimate.
While the Verity Duo system has not yet been sold in Texas because it was only recently certified. Pete Lichtenheld, vice president of customer success for Hart InterCivic, said the system has been out since about 2015. He said there are approximately 10,000 devices in use.
Additionally, Lictenheld emphasized the scanning method that the Verity Duo system employs: Optical character recognition. This method of scanning ballots differs from ES&S’ ExpressVote system, which scans a barcode on voters’ ballots instead of the words on the ballot.
“When a voter scans the ballot we use optical character recognition, we read the words on the ballot, that is what gets counted,” Lichenheld said. “Voters can verify the words on the ballot and that's what the scanner uses that becomes the cast vote record.”
Now that the county has selected a new voting system, it must negotiate and finalize a contract with Hart InterCivic, which must then be approved by the secretary of state as defined by the Texas Election Code.