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Residents in favor of Harrison County electronic voting system

By Robin Y. Richardson
March 28, 2017 at 4 a.m.

The evolution of Harrison County's voting equipment through the years is shown on  March 15, at an Open House, hosted by the Harrison County Elections Office.

The Harrison County Elections Office reported receiving mostly positive feedback about the proposition to move the county from a paper ballot system to an all electronic one, a survey conducted at a recent open house revealed.

"We had 29 individuals provide positive feedback for the Verity equipment with only one expressing a 'no' concerning the new system and a paper-free voting model," said Elections Administrator Mike McMurry.

McMurry said a total of 45 people, including officials from Gregg and Wood counties, attended the event to test out the proposed Verity line of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting equipment, offered by Hart InterCivic, as well as the Pollpad voter qualification solution.

Questions asked on the feedback form were: "Did you like the new system?" "Would you prefer this method over paper?" The questions were followed up with prompting them to answer either yes or no and why or why not. Surveyors were also urged to add any additional comments or suggestions.

A summary of the feedback shows that attendees commented that the proposed electronic system is user friendly, simple and easy to use, not easily tampered with, easy to read and more efficient. Surveyors also like the fact that it's more accommodating for poll workers, by eliminating bulky equipment and providing a more lightweight and portable machine. The fact that an all electronic voter system will ultimately qualify the county as a Vote Center model, allowing constituents to vote at any polling site they wish on Election Day, was also a plus.

The only opposing comment indicated that electronics should not be used when it came to a preference. The opponent also didn't like the cost associated with it. Officials estimate the investment would cost up to $1 million for the county; it will be financed over several years.

Proponents of the system said they prefer an electronic method over paper because it's easy, convenient and there's less room for human error. They also said electronic is faster than a paper system and comes with less paperwork. Proponents further opined that it's wasteful to keep using paper and that it's simply time to update the county's voting system by converting from paper to electronic.

In the additional comments, proponents noted their desire for the Harrison County Commissioners Court to find funding to acquire the new system. Proponents further indicated that they believe the county needs to "keep up" with new technology. Surveyors also said they believe an electronic system would be more reliable in the event of a recount.

McMurry said the feedback is helpful to the elections office as they work to move forward with their proposal.

"It's encouraging that the folks came out and responded as they did," he said. "I would like to have seen more people - even though it may have been in opposition - to hear their concerns because I know they are out there, and we could mitigate their concerns."

McMurry said neighboring Gregg County plans to host an open house next to allow constituents there to take a peek of Hart's new electronic system.

He said, as far as Harrison County, "we'll get updated quotes and have the numbers presented to the commissioners court, during the next budget cycle, in hopes that we can find a way to proceed with this new system."

McMurry explained before that with aging election equipment, the county will soon have to decide whether to continue with a newer paper ballot system or upgrade to an all electronic voting system.

He said they are currently focused on election equipment vendor Hart InterCivic because of the county's relationship with the company and because of the features and functionality that the company's devices have to offer.

McMurry explained before that the Verity Touch line of DRE voting equipment is a recommended replacement for the aging paper system devices that the county has been utilizing since 2005.

McMurry noted that the numerous ePollBooks that the county purchased from Hart InterCivic in 2015 are still in working condition, but he thinks the county should go ahead and move forward with the new text generation solution, PollPad, in order to take advantage of the no-cost software that Hart InterCivic is offering.



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