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Travis County to move to paper ballot system after 2012

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 by Austin Monitor

The Travis County electorate will have the option of voting by paper ballot. It won’t come, however, until after the 2012 general election.

That news came as the Commissioners Court voted to go along with the recommendations of a group it had formed to study voting options. Their unanimous tally (with commissioners Margaret Gomez and Ron Davis absent) came over fierce objections from residents and some members of the study group.

The specifics of the change have yet to be determined. But, according to County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, the electoral count will continue to come by machine, even if the ballots are filled out by hand.

The report, titled “Analysis of Travis County’s Current Voting System and Recommendations for Future Systems,” is a whopping 193-page effort. In it, the group writes that though it “is concerned about the security risks associated with an all-electronic voting system and its effect on public trust in the election process,” it “is impressed by the Travis County Clerk’s Office use of safeguards and procedures well beyond those required by law.”


It subsequently recommends that the county move “as soon as is practical (emphasis theirs)” to a system that “combines a paper ballot record with an electronic count.”


Local activists, concerned with the possibility of hacked electronic ballots, have called for some sort of paper record in association with the voting process. But for them, DeBeauvoir’s solution was far from adequate.


Karen Renick, who co-directs the group Vote Rescue, was uncompromising. “The primary goal of our election officials is how do they make the process as convenient and streamlined for them as possible,” she said. “Despite all of the good intentions of the many good people involved in the … clerk’s election study group, it failed totally.”


Renick also served on the committee. Her group has called for a hand-counted paper ballot format. DeBeauvoir told the court that this “was rejected so obviously and so grandly” by her study group.


“Part of having faith and trust in your election system is being able to know in a reasonable amount of time who won the election,” she said. “So the study does not, absolutely, support having a hand count.”


Renick’s testimony came as part of more than 90 minutes worth of public comment on the voting process. The remarks came from activists who represented views from across the political spectrum.


In addition to the eventual paper ballot voting change, the group recommended that the county set up “vote centers,” which would allow ballot-casting to take place out of precinct. That move was designed as a convenience measure and to complement the current system.

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