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Travis County to Update Aging Voting Technology With New Tablet-Based System

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT News
Travis County's tablet voting system, to be launched in 2018, was cited by a national report as an example of improved voting technology.

Yesterday morning, we heard a story about the nation’s aging voting machines and the problems they could present in the future. But that same report, which warns of trouble ahead for some municipalities, also details how Travis County has developed a new voting system, set to premiere in time for 2018 elections.

To anyone over 18, the following scene might sound familiar.

“It looks like you’re standing in front of an ATM machine with kind of a pad-like device in front of you, and you click through and make selections for the candidates or the propositions that you’re choosing, and then you cast your vote,” says Ronald Morgan, Travis County's Chief Deputy Clerk. 

Morgan is describing what voting looks like in many places in the U.S. A recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice found that inside these “ATM-like machines” are often outdated parts: memory cards with limited space, and machines that still require floppy disks.

Travis County bought its voting machines in 2001. So in 2009, 45 members of an election study group sat down to come up with a new system. It’s called “STAR-Vote.” Instead of using these machines with old parts, Travis County residents would vote on tablets — like an iPad — easily bought at any retail store. After residents cast their votes, they would be given a paper ballot and a receipt. That paper ballot goes into a box at the voting station, while the receipt can be taken home and used to verify that vote.

“The takeaway sheet that they walk out with would allow them to log on and say, 'yes I voted, and my vote counted,'” Morgan says.

Travis County says it hopes to have its new voting system up and running – at a cost of $8 million – in time for the next midterm election in 2018. 

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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