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Harris County goes shopping for new voting machines

It’s time.

Diane Trautman

Harris County formally has begun searching for a new voting machine model with the aim of debuting the devices in a 2021 election, County Clerk Diane Trautman announced Tuesday.

Speaking at the International Association of Government Officials trade show in downtown Houston, Trautman said the county plans to select a vendor for new voting machines by next July. She estimated the cost of purchasing about 5,000 machines would be $74 million.

“One of the issues that I campaigned on was making the election process simpler and more convenient, and more trustworthy,” Trautman said. She added, “Now it is time to address making the voting process more trustworthy by replacing our outdated voting machines.”

Trautman said replacing the current machines, some of which are 20 years old, is an important next step after her administration debuted countywide voting centers in May. Harris County awaits approval from the secretary of state to expand the system, which allows voters to cast ballots at any location, regardless of their assigned precincts.

The clerk’s office plans to form a community advisory group in the fall and issue a request for proposals to vendors in January. A voting selection committee comprised of election workers and staff from the county universal services and purchasing departments will help choose two voting machines as finalists in March.

John Coby was at that trade show as well, and he’s got some pictures if you want to see what Trautman et al were looking at. The goal is to have the new machines in place for the 2021 election, which will provide a nice lower-turnout environment for a shakedown cruise. The head voting honcho at the Clerk’s office is Michael Winn, who came over from Travis County, where they replaced their voting machines a few years ago and have been doing some design work for the next generation of them. Look for some of those features, which will include a printed receipt, as we go forward.

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3 Comments

  1. chris daniel says:

    didn’t the majority of those machines get replaced in 2011-12, with insurance money after the big warehouse fire of 2010?

    https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/2012/09/13/38021/two-years-after-massive-fire-harris-county-opens-warehouse-for-voting-equipment/

    that would only make more than 10,000 machines less then 10 years old. Maybe set for purchase in 2023 instead for a better business case?

    I’m all for newest and latest, but these machines are not that old, purchase-wise.

  2. mollusk says:

    Some of the machines may have newer hardware (which was getting obsolete by 2011 – 2012), but they all have the same elderly technology, clunky interface, and most importantly, no physical method of verification (i.e., a literal paper trail).

  3. Mainstream says:

    Verification for whom? My only concern about having voters walk out of the voting booth with a list confirming who they voted for is that an employer, or union boss, or “community organizer” or whoever provided them a ride to the polls may insist on seeing that piece of paper. If so, the principle of a secret ballot is compromised. Even if the piece of paper stays as a backup at the polling station, there is a risk that an election official will not honor his oath to protect the privacy of the ballot. I was a pollwatcher in Third Ward one year, and when the election judge hovered over a teenager who voted for a Republican candidate, the election judge said to him “does your mother know you are voting like that?”