Many counties throughout Central Texas are implementing a new voting system just in time for the upcoming November elections.
The new voting machines will allow people to vote electronically while keeping a backup paper copy of their ballot. The machines utilize the Election Systems & Software program, which Travis County decided to purchase in 2018 to replace their former, electronic-only 17-year-old system.
“(Travis County) doesn’t shrift voters when it comes to funding elections,” Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said. “Nobody has a blank checkbook, but we work to reach all parts of the county and as many neighborhoods and populations as we possibly can to make voting the best possible experience.”
DeBeauvoir said the new system cost $8.1 million. The features of the new system include Spanish and English language capabilities and greater accessibility for disabled people, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Biology junior Emma Madewell said she sees the greater value in getting a physical copy of her vote and greater accessibility for all members of society.
“When first hearing about making sweeping changes to the way we vote, I was a little unsure,” Madewell said. “I don’t know how making big changes to the way we are used to voting would work, especially when I think about how apprehensive the older generations are to new technology. We should all be able to feel at peace in our democracy.”
Before Election Day on Nov. 5, DeBeauvoir said she and other county officials will be hosting information sessions at multiple locations throughout the county to discuss the new machines and teach members of the community how to use them.
DeBeauvoir said since voter turnout is high during the presidential and gubernatorial elections and lower during local and community elections, introducing the system to voters at this time of year was optimal.
“We have dozens of meetings this month alone to get Travis County residents good and familiar with the software,” DeBeauvoir said. “Hopefully in doing so, they feel more prepared come Election Day.”
DeBeauvoir said workers and community volunteers will also be present throughout voting centers during Election Day to help voters through any difficulties they may face using the new software.
According to the Travis County Clerk’s Office, more than 60% of voters cast ballots during 2018’s early voting period. DeBeauvoir said such a large number of voters calls for “all hands on deck.”
Petroleum engineering sophomore Nathan McDermid said he feel much more at ease voting with these regulations. He said he thinks it’s important to feel secure while voting with the current political climate.
“I think this is a great thing Central Texas is doing,” McDermid said. “Given all of the distrust surrounding the accuracy of the results of the last presidential election, it’s nice that this new system offers a bit more peace of mind with the backup paper ballot.”