Voting system to be modernized

By Becky Brewster

(VHA Photo | DB) New, updated voting machines could be coming for Culberson County voters. Commissioners look ahead to more user-friendly elections with upgraded equipment.
(VHA Photo | DB) New, updated voting machines could be coming for Culberson County voters. Commissioners look ahead to more user-friendly elections with upgraded equipment.

County to convert to electronic voting system

Culberson County Commissioners met in regular session on Monday. Linda McDonald, County Clerk, had previously discussed the need to update the current voting equipment to meet new voting system standards and noted that she had researched various options that are available, recommending that the County stay with Hart Intercivic and upgrade to their new system. Hart Intercivic, a Texas vendor of voting equipment and supplies since 1912, showcased its Verity electronic voting system to the Court. The Verity line features three options: electronic, paper and hybrid voting. Although paper is an option, the votes will still be entered via an electronic system. All ballots will be counted electronically which will speed up the process tremendously with election results being available shortly after the final polls close. The Commissioners had several questions on the system, such as backup batteries and cybersecurity. The computers are not connected to the internet, so they are not vulnerable to cyber-hacks. The Hart representative, John Thompson, noted that there would be a learning curve for voters that have only used paper ballots, but that Hart will work with the County to have voter education training such as site visits and open houses to familiarize the voters with the Verity system before the first election. Hart will also provide multiple days of on-site training and will be present on the first day of early voting and at the first election using the system. Currently, some 40 counties are using the Verity system which was first certified in Texas in 2016.

It was noted that although the Federal government provided each state with funds for election purposes, with Texas receiving $23 million, Texas has chosen not to disburse any funds to the local governments. Therefore, Culberson County will have to bear the burden of the entire cost of up to $140,000 depending on the type of system chosen and the number of stations purchased. Each polling place will have to have at least one accessible station. However, financing is an option to spread the cost over several years. The Court will select the system and decide on the funding at the next meeting.

Larry Simpson, representing the Van Horn Foundation, requested assistance in maintaining the grounds at “the castle” across the street from the Courthouse. County Attorney Steve Mitchell will check in to options for County assistance but noted that since the Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, there should be some way to work cooperatively with the Foundation. Simpson also gave an update on the airport activities, thanking the court for the progress on the much-needed AWAS system. He expressed the hope that the system could be installed quickly as he expects increased air traffic in January from the military and the Texas Department of Health Services.

The Court selected Marbek Services, LLC to serve as Grant Administrator for the 2019-2020 TxCDBG grant program through the Texas Department of Agriculture and approved the contract for services. The Court then held a public hearing on the 2019-2020 TxCDBG program to discuss options for the County’s grant application. The 2018 grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture provides funds to renovate and expand the Culberson County Food Pantry. The Court handled several administrative matters regarding this grant.

The Court then set a date for the swearing in of newly elected officials to be January 2, 2019, at 8:00 a.m.

In other County business, the Court also:

  • Approved the installation of flashers at the intersection of FM 2185 and 3541.
  • Approved a contract with Records Consultants, Inc . for records retention services.
  • Approved TAC CIRA annual website fees.
  • Tabled various items until the January regular meeting.
  • Heard reports on various County Projects.
  • Approved monthly reports.
  • Approved monthly payroll and expenses for November.