Harris County Moves to Voting System With Paper Trail

Ahead of local Texas elections, Harris County Commissioners have voted unanimously to upgrade the county’s election system to have paper-trail technology to better serve its 2.3 million voters.

The county will receive the first wave of 2,300 machines by March 1, well in advance of its May 1, 2021, local elections. Harris County is purchasing the new machines from the Austin-based Hart InterCivic. The new system includes enhanced security features, modern software, and hardware designed and manufactured in Austin.

“Moving to the Hart InterCivic Verity Voting System gives voters a more accessible, secure, and verifiable ballot to improve the voting experience for all Harris County Voters,” Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria said. “My goal is to use the coming weeks to learn and train staff about the Hart voting machines and offer all Harris County voters the opportunity to learn more about the new features.”

While county officials described Hart InterCivic as a “longtime partner,” the county undertook a competitive procurement process. The final selection was made by a committee of representatives from the Commissioner Court staff, the County Judge, and technical experts from the County Clerk and Elections Administrator staff.

The technology combines a touchscreen with a paper vote record that is available for recounts or audits. After completing their ballot on the touchscreen, voters can review their paper ballot before feeding it into an electronic scanner.

Harris County’s focus on having a paper record falls in line with guidance from leading election security experts. Prior to the 2020 general election, then-Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Christopher Krebs said the 2020 election “will be the most secure election in modern history,” but continued to advocate for backup paper ballots to ensure an accurate count.

In addition to avoiding just general technology mishaps, Krebs stressed the important role paper ballots can play in the event of cybersecurity issues. “To the extent that we can expand rapidly any sort of paper ballot backup,” he said, “that is going to lead to post-election audit success.”

Kate Polit
About Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs