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How safe and secure is a Colorado County election?

June 17, 2020 - 00:00
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  • How safe and secure is a Colorado County election?

Colorado County prides itself on assisting voters with getting their ballots cast and making sure the voices of Colorado County are heard by providing accurate voting results. We recognize that many changes have been made to elections this year both on the local level, and in overall state legislation. Colorado County takes the accuracy and security of the voting process seriously. Elections is an ever-evolving beast and in the spotlight on both a national and local level.

What are the duties of an Election Administrator, and why the change?

The duties are to oversee all aspects of elections, to ensure the integrity of the process and the accuracy of operational tasks based on applicable federal and state laws, Secretary of State (SOS) rules and organizational policies. An election administrator takes elections out of the hands of elected officials to preserve high level of professional election standards in order to earn and preserve public confidence in the electoral process. Colorado County Commissioners adopted the change and Colorado County Elections Commission appointed an Administrator in August of 2019.

Why new voting equipment?

Times change and so does technology.

The ExpressVote machines were rolled out in February of 2020. They are touch screen ballot printing devices designed to make voting easier for the voter by offering a variety of capabilities. The machine gives several opportunities to change and verify your vote including the printing of the ballot for the voter’s review BEFORE casting the ballot. This “new” way of voting is still considered and counted as a paper ballot. These machines do NOT store your vote. All electronic voting equipment will be sanitized after each use to ease some of your health and safety concerns. Every polling location on Election Day will have at least one ExpressVote machine and traditional ballots available.

The DS200 is a precinct ballot-tabulating device. It is a very similar optical scanning tabulation device that has been used by the county for the last 20 or so years, but on a smaller scale that allows votes to be calculated as you go and puts the tabulation process in the voter’s hands. The accuracy of optical-scan tabulator is 99.99 percent.

What is wrong with the good old-fashioned way of doing things?

Nothing, however, the ExpressVote Machines offer voters more capabilities of independent voting and puts voting back into the hands of voters that may have otherwise needed assistance. There are printing costs involved with traditional ballots and accuracy of ordering quantities is always a “best guess” situation based from historical data that vary from election to election. There is a higher error rate in hand counting for tabulation. The accuracy of hand counting for tabulation of ballots is 99.91 percent. Doesn’t seem like a lot of difference but accuracy and time count when it comes to your vote. And in the case of COVID-19, some strains of coronavirus live for only a few minutes on paper, while others live for up to five days. It is not a “bad” option to use a traditional ballot to vote – but it is not a “safer” option.

What other precautions are taken to secure our vote?

Ballots cast in Colorado County never leave Colorado County and are stored here for the retention period required. No matter how you look at it, Colorado County is still a “paper” county. All procedures have a verification system in place that share both the high professional standards of applicable federal, and state laws, as well as county procedures, and we can verify every vote cast through a checks and balance system. In 2018 the State of Texas undertook a massive effort to overhaul and prioritize election security.

Some of the highlights are:

- No voting system is ever connected to the internet at any point - either when votes are being cast or when they are being counted.

- Only software certified by the Texas Secretary of State can be loaded on a computer used for counting or accumulating vote totals.

- Before and after each use, all voting systems are sealed with locks and with seals with unique serial numbers, and all election workers must follow proper chain of custody procedures during the election, including a careful tracking of the serial numbers used to seal the machines at the end of each period of voting.

- While voting is occurring, election judges are required to periodically inspect the equipment to ensure there is no tampering or damage to the equipment.

- All voting systems are tested three times, twice before the machines are used in the election and once immediately after. The tests consist of a deck of ballots being voted on the machines and then tabulated to ensure that the machine results are correct and match the test stack of ballots. The machines cannot be used or deployed until the test is 100 percent successful. Note that one of the tests conducted before the machines are used in an election is open to the public and notice of this test is published in a local paper. Each political party has the right to submit names of individuals to represent that party on the testing board.

- The election worker at the polling place (both during early voting and election day) must confirm that there are zero votes cast at the opening of voting and at the end of voting they must compare the number of ballots cast to the number of voters that have checkedin on the poll list.

- Background checks are required for all personnel that prepare, test or service all voting system equipment.

- Poll watchers are allowed to observe at all early voting and Election Day polling locations and at the central counting or accumulation station where ballots are being counted or vote totals accumulated.

- A post-election audit (partial manual count) is required for all elections that have paper ballots – which is Colorado County.

- The Secretary of State has the authority to conduct a manual or electronic recount of any election using electronic voting.

- Every single vote counts! The presidential election is the only election that has an electoral college. Any and all other races are a one by one count. Your vote matters– one vote can decide a race and who represents you!

Were you aware of these legislative changes?

There is no more straight ticket voting in the state of Texas, the option for voters to check one box to cast a ballot for every candidate from a single political party was removed by House Bill 25 and will be in effect for the November 2020 General Election.

In 2019 there were six House and Senate bills that passed into law regarding web-posting requirements. The list of laws is extensive but to summarize; all election notices and information must be posted on the Colorado County Website, http://www.co.colorado.tx.us/page/colorado.Elections, to make it easier for voters to find and have access to election information. Colorado County Elections page just received an Outstanding rating for the amount and accuracy of information provided to the voter.

For additional election information: https://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/index.shtml or call Colorado County Elections at 979-732-6860.