WAXAHACHIE

Ellis County residents will "vote" next month on which of two voting machines they prefer, with a caveat that one of the two could be in place ahead of the next election cycle.

With Election System and Software voting systems in place since 2005, Ellis County is in need of an upgraded system for the upcoming mid-term elections, explained Ellis County Elections Administrator Jana Onyon. That’s why Ellis County is holding public interactive demonstrations to show what ES&S and Hart InterCivic systems can do.

“Ellis County has used this system for the past 13 years,” Onyon said. “Voting systems normally last about 10 to 12 years due to technology.”

The demonstrations will be held from 3—7 p.m. Wednesday, August 15 and Thursday, August 16 at the Ellis County Courts and Administration Building, located at 109 S. Jackson St. in Waxahachie. Participants will have the opportunity to fill out a survey at the completion of each demonstration.

Onyon said Ellis County also hopes to move from precinct polling system to countywide polling. That means any Ellis County resident can go to any polling location on Election Day as opposed to their precinct location.

“We won’t go to countywide polling locations until a new system has been found, purchased and implemented,” Onyon said. “Then we can request to be on the program with the state.”

ES&S and Hart InterCivic are the only two vendors certified to federal and state standards in Texas, which is why both were selected for the upcoming demonstration.

An ES&S spokesperson said the demonstration will go over the entire election process, from setting up equipment in a polling location to reporting at the end of an election.

Steven Sockwell, Hart InterCivic Vice President of Marketing, said the majority of counties nationwide purchased voting systems from 2002—06. Since then, many of those systems have become outdated.

“Those systems are still working as designed, but it is becoming harder to find replacement parts for service,” Sockwell said. “Newer systems include more modern features and have fresher, longer supply chains. As a result, election officials and other county leaders across the country have begun the process of updating their voting systems.”

Neither Hart InterCivic and SS&S voting systems are connected to the internet, and both use cryptographic modules to meet Federal Information Processing standards and protect voter information.

In an ongoing debate on how reliable the United States’ voting process is, Sockwell said voters can feel confident knowing that voter information is fair and secure with their systems.

In the 2016 Presidential elections, for instance, Sockwell pointed out that data theft and election interference affected private email systems, social media platforms, and state voter registration infrastructures. They did not target the voting systems themselves.

“Voting systems are air-gapped, meaning they are completely disconnected from all these other systems and there is no evidence or allegation of security breaches in any voting system anywhere in the U.S.,” Sockwell said.

An ES&S spokesperson resonated with Sockwell’s response, saying that ES&S works with organizations both at the federal and state levels to ensure the integrity of their systems.

“The greatest threat is the potential lack of voter confidence in the electoral process, which seems to be driven by the fallacy that votes have been hacked,” the spokesperson said. “In reality, no vote has ever been tampered with or lost through hacking.”

Onyon said once the elections office has reviewed the surveys submitted from the demonstrations, they will make a selection between the two companies.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the demonstration to see what it all entails,” she added.

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David Dunn, @DavidDunnInTX

469-517-1456