New face, machines to help election confidence in Texas

Time is winding down as Election Day approaches and the push is on to register voters as part of National Voter Registration Day.

October 7th is the last day to sign up.

"We are at an all-time high, of 15.8 million who are registered to vote,” said Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs.

The upcoming ballot may not be as exciting as next year's presidential election, but Hughs says it is important.

"Don’t know if as many people are familiar we have a lot of constitutional amendments coming up in this next election," Hughs said. "And there is a lot of information on our website about what those constitutional amendments are, and more of an explanation that what you might see on the ballot, if people are interested in learning more about it."

Hughs replaced David Whitley, who earlier this year was not reappointed to the job by state lawmakers. Confidence in him was lost after a controversial and flawed voter purge list was released. It incorrectly identified thousands of people as illegal voters. Hughs understands her job includes rebuilding trust.

"Clearly some mistakes were made, I think they were recognized, there were lots of discussions with all of the interested stakeholders, and we are operating in response to all that and making sure we have better systems in place going forward,” said Hughs. 

Hughs believes voter fraud remains an issue. She said her office will still work with local counties to address it. 

Another step involving electronic voting machines is being made to improve confidence in the upcoming vote. New ones are being rolled out and they include a feature that people have been demanding. Demonstrations of the new voting system, a ballot marking device, were done at U.T. and Huston-Tillotson.

"It’s not a voting machine, it just creates a paper card ballot,” said Drew Dillard, elections coordinator for Travis County.

The machines, according to Dillard, are similar to the touch screen tablets used in past elections. The difference is votes are printed on paper and then scanned into a storage device.

"The actual ballot marking device is just that, it is a fancy typewriter, if you will,” said Dillard. "So it basically allows you to create a voter verifiable paper trail."

Texas law allows voters to have do-overs with the new paper ballot system. If they believe a vote was marked wrong, the ballot can be voided up to three times. Dillard said the system is as close to being hacker-proof as you can now get.

"There is no internet connection, the system is no way on the internet," Dillard said.

The new voting machines will be used in both Travis and Williamson counties. They are among 73 counties in Texas using the system.