Tarrant County debuts latest voting system

Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia demonstrates how to use the new voting machines that will debut with the Nov. 5 election.

Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia demonstrates how to use the new voting machines that will debut with the Nov. 5 election.

Image description
KRN-2019-09-20-1
Tarrant County voters headed to the polls this November will be using new voting machines that combine the ease of electronic ballots with the integrity of paper ballots.

The new system, set to debut this fall and valued at $10 million, includes 3,000 voting machines and 400 ballot scanners. The county paid another $1 million for a two-year license.

“They have the electronic accuracy of the screen and everything, but we also gave voters what they were asking the [commissioners] court to give them—which is a paper trail for our elections,” Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia said.

The Texas Secretary of State also approved a request for countywide voting, which allows voters to cast a ballot at any of the 340 polling places in Tarrant County. Voters can still go to their assigned precincts, but they also have the convenience of voting at any Tarrant County polling place.

County officials said they believe this fall is a good time to introduce the changes. Tarrant County saw record turnout in the 2018 midterm elections and expects high voter participation again in 2020, officials said. But this fall’s election, which has fewer ballot measures, is projected to have low turnout.

The county ballot will include 10 statewide Constitutional amendments. Voters in the city of Keller will decide whether to allow all alcohol sales, which would pave the way for liquor stores to open. Keller voters will also consider reauthorizing a $0.0025 sales tax for street maintenance. And in Keller ISD, voters will consider a $315 million bond to fund 11 projects on the district’s long-range facilities plan.

“It’ll be interesting to see how this goes,” county commissioner Gary Fickes said of the new machines. “I don’t think that this election this November is going to give us any indication of anything. You just don’t get the kind of turnout for what they call a constitutional amendment election.”

An aging system

The previous voting system has been in place since 2006. Garcia said it created some confusion because it used two different methods.

“We used to have people who would come in to vote early and say, ‘Where’s my paper ballot?’” he said. “We’d say, ‘We don’t have one in early voting.’ [They would say,] ‘Then I’ll come back on Election Day.’ So, depending on when you voted, you had a different experience.”

The new system gives all Tarrant County voters the same experience regardless of when they vote, he said.

Security ensured

By law, voting machines are not connected to the Internet. That is one aspect that did not change with the switch to the new machines.

“That’s always been one of the basic foundations in security in elections,” Garcia said. “Your voting machines are not connected to anything, so there’s no physical way to get into them.”

And while the technology is newer, votes will not be counted any faster on election night.

“You still have to physically collect the memory cartridges and the ballots from every location so that we can read them and then put them on the website,” Garcia said.

Fickes said he believes the new technology is a good thing.

“If [the machine] does what they say it’s going to do, I think people will be happy with it,” he said.
By Renee Yan
Renee Yan graduated May 2017 from the University of Texas in Arlington with a degree in journalism, joining Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in July.


MOST RECENT

A Layne's Chicken Fingers restaurant will open in Roanoke in 2021 at the site of the former Dairy Queen on US 377. (Courtesy Layne's Chicken Fingers)
Layne's Chicken Fingers to open in Roanoke; meat, seafood market set for Frisco and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Scott Palmer, owner of Roanoke Pharmacy and Gift Shop, opened his business in 1999 after leaving the corporate world. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
Roanoke Pharmacy and Gift Shop: Owner focuses on customer service

Roanoke Pharmacy and Gift Shop owner Scott Palmer has been in the pharmacy business for more than 40 years.

A Layne's Chicken Fingers restaurant will open in Roanoke in 2021 at the site of the former Dairy Queen on US 377. (Courtesy Layne's Chicken Fingers)
Layne’s Chicken Fingers coming soon to Roanoke

The restaurant specializes in chicken fingers, but it also serves chicken sandwiches, grilled cheese and sides.

The new 945 area code will be deployed Jan. 15 for the region that presently uses area codes 214, 469 and 972. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Frisco gets new area code; Popeyes to open in McKinney and more top DFW news

Read the top news from the past week from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Burnt BBQ & Tacos' menu offers several different barbecue and taco options. (Courtesy Burnt BBQ & Tacos)
Burnt BBQ & Tacos opens in Plano and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Candidate filing for the May 1 election opened Jan. 13 and will close Feb. 12. (Community Impact staff)
Election filing starts for City Council, school board seats in Keller, Roanoke, Fort Worth

Candidate filing for the May 1 election opened Jan. 13 and will close Feb. 12.

A CityVet-Alliance location officially opened Jan. 4 in Fort Worth. (Courtesy CityVet)
CityVet location now open in north Fort Worth

CityVet locations provide vaccinations, surgery, grooming and more for dogs and cats.

Formerly located at Alliance Town Center, Justice, a clothing and accessories store, permanently closed in December. (Courtesy Google)
Clothing store Justice permanently closes north Fort Worth location

A Justice clothing and accessories store permanently closed in December.

Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Glenn Hegar shared a new revenue estimate for the 2022-23 biennium Jan. 11. (Courtesy Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts)
Comptroller projects drop in state revenue, potential for economic uptick for next biennium

Despite the slight reduction in expected revenue for the state's 2022-23 budget, recovery could be on the horizon.

Keller ISD officials have approved the addition of more remote instruction days for the spring semester. (Courtesy Keller ISD)
Keller ISD adds more remote learning days to 2020-21 instructional calendar

The Keller ISD board of trustees on Jan. 11 approved a revision to the district's 2020-21 instructional calendar.

Council Member Dennis Shingleton has announced that he will not reek re-election in May. (Ian Pribanic/Community Impact Newspaper)
Dennis Shingleton, District 7 Fort Worth City Council member, to retire

Council Member Dennis Shingleton will not seek a sixth term in the May 1 election.

County commissioners sent a joint letter Jan. 12 to Commissioner John Hellerstedt of the Texas Department of State Health Services to request additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. State health officials have since committed to send 6,975 doses of the Moderna vaccine to the county next week. (Courtesy Baylor College of Medicine)
Collin County to receive nearly 7,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine

State health officials have committed to send 6,975 doses of the Moderna vaccine to the county next week.