E-Slate voting machines have sparked controversy since their introduction to the electoral process in 2000. There have been various complaints lodged, including computerized vote fraud and hacking. Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan said voter error is a common mistake. Cowan said straight ticket voters should be especially cautious not to cast their ballot without reviewing it, as they may forfeit the opportunity to vote for city council, state propositions, city charter amendments, school bonds or non-binding referendums. She advised that only after a final review of the ballot should the voter press “cast.””Don’t leave the booth until you see a waving flag,” said Cowan.
There are eight voting machines available inside The Hays County Election Office in San Marcos for citizens to vote; early voting begins October 20. Cowan said she disagrees with the notion that the machines could get hacked; each one of them is connected to a 110-volt outlet, not an internet connection.
“You tell me how they can be hacked by an electrical outlet,” said Cowan. “If you hack one you would have to hack them all.”
There are checks and balances to the system, within the precinct there is an intricate voting intranet. When a ballot is cast, it is recorded in three different places; in a chip inside each E-slate machine, a computer connected to all of the voting booths called the Judges Booth Controller (JBC), and a flash card within the JBC called the Mobile Ballot Box (MBB.)
“On election night we make sure the flash card is secured with a tamper proof tape and a wire seal,” said Cowan.
In addition to these accuracy measures, Hays County creates its own electronic ballots. Using BOSS Software, a county official inputs the information while a witness verifies the process. Some districts such as Caldwell County hire outside vendors, an idea Cowan disapproves of.
“No one knows our county like we do,” she said.
Overall she says that the machines have been received well in the county, and the voters do not disagree.
“I didn’t think it was difficult,” said San Marcos citizen Dixie Niemietz. “And there were people helping some that seemed to be having difficulties.”
by Mary Dichard
For a list of early voting times and locations click here
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