WAXAHACHIE

New voting machines and a drastic change to polling locations should help provide Ellis County voters to elect new leaders, according to the county elections administrator.

Early voting for the general election began Monday, April 22 throughout the county. Several terms are up this election, including two Waxahachie City Council seats, two Waxahachie School Board of Trustee positions and a special election for Midlothian’s next City Mayor.

Also on the ballot is Proposition A, which would change the county’s status from Tier 1 to Tier 2, requiring cities to bring decisions on annexation to voters for approval.

But there’s another addition to these elections that some residents may recognize – the implementation of new voting machines from Election Systems and Software.

Ellis County Elections Administrator Jana Onyon said the county has used ES&S systems since 2005. With the Elections Office in need of an upgrade, the county opted to renew their contract with ES&S and get a much-needed update to their software.

The products in the ES&S contract include an ExpressVote universal voting system, DS200 precinct scanner and tabulator, and a DS4500 scanner and tabulator. Onyon explained that when voters check in, poll workers will provide them with an activator card specific to their voting precinct, which they can insert into the ExpressVote system to begin filling out their ballot. Once they’ve verified their selections, they can print their ballot and insert into the scanner.

“I found it very easy – although I had a lady follow me through and told me what to do next,” resident Jim Kauffman stated. “I think it’s the most accurate way to do it.”

Also notable in this election is the implementation of countywide polling. In previous elections, voters have had to go and vote in one of the polling locations in their specified precinct.

“If you lived in Midlothian, you had to go to the Midlothian Conference Center,” Onyon explained. “If you lived in Waxahachie, you had to go to Waxahachie. It was split up. In early voting, they could not go anywhere in the May election.”

Onyon stated this led to some confusion and, ultimately, some lost votes.

“This past election, we actually had 18 people fill out provisional ballots at a location that wasn’t their precinct,” Onyon said. “Those didn’t get counted.”

But thanks to the new machines, the Elections Office is able to conduct countywide polling, where residents can visit any polling location and feel assured in their vote being counted. According to the Elections Office, there is currently seven early voting location in the county, and two mobile locations at the Ferris Public Library on April 29 and 30 and the First Baptist Church in Maypearl on Tuesday, April 30.

“There are so many people that come through, especially in our bigger elections,” Onyon expressed. “They didn’t get to vote because they’re going to the wrong location, or they’re heading to work, or they don’t have the time. This would eliminate all that. Voters will be able to stop anywhere in Ellis County to vote during early voting and on election day.”

Resident Bill Graves voiced his support for the new countywide polling, explaining that he used to have to drive several miles out of the city in order to participate in an election.

“That’s what we used to have to do.,” Graves remarked. “We used to have to go all the way to Maypearl to vote. Now, I’m right here, we’re over, and we’re done.”

Kauffman also voiced his support for the new polling system, adding that he hopes more residents participate in the elections process as a result of it.

“Making it easier for more people to vote is always a good thing,” Kauffman remarked. “There are those who would try to make it harder – which is about as un-American as you can get.”

Onyon stated that residents are asked to fill out a short two-question survey after casting their vote, which the Elections Office will compile into an election report for review. Onyon stated the Office would present their findings to the Ellis County Commissioners’ Court on May 21, where they would also hold a public hearing to elicit feedback on how well-received the polling system was this election.

“Our local politics has much more effect on our day-to-day lives than our national politics,” Kauffman expressed. “This is all about one person, one vote.”

Early voting runs until April 30, and Election Day will be on Saturday, May 4.