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Moore County Clerk Brenda McKanna holds up one of the new machines that Moore County voters will be using this year to record their votes in the upcoming election.  Unlike the old system, the new machines create a paper trail, in addition to recording the votes electronically.  Experts say that will help ensure the integrity of the election.

When Moore County voters go to the polls Nov. 5 to vote on 10 amendments to the state constitution and bond initiatives for the Dumas and Sunray Independent School Districts, they will be voting on new machines that are a little different from the machines they have used in past elections.  The voting procedure will be different, as well.

"These (machines) are very easy to use," said Moore County Clerk Brenda McKanna.  "The voter comes in.  We check them in.  We take a blank ballot and run it through a receipt printer, and it puts a heading and a bar code on it with their ballot style."  (The ballot style is determined by where a voter lives.  A voter from a precinct in Dumas will have the constitutional amendments and the Dumas Independent School District bond initiative on his or her ballot.  A voter from Sunray would receive a ballot with the amendments and the Sunray Independent School District bond.)  "The voter takes the ballot and inserts it into the machine," McKanna continued.  "The machine automatically pulls up their ballot style.  They vote on the touch screen.  They will have to verify (their vote) before printing it.  They can print it and have their ballot in hand and can verify (their vote) again before putting it into the scanner."

The change of machines in the county is part of a nation-wide effort to make the integrity of elections more secure after questions arose about possible election interference, including hacking into or tampering with voting machines, by Russians and/or others in the 2016 presidential election.  According to McKanna, the old machines, purchased by the county in 2006, recorded votes electronically and maintained them internally.  McKanna says the votes could be audited, but the machines did not produce a paper trail that offered definite proof of the way people voted, in the event questions arose about the integrity of the machines.  Experts say accusations of someone tampering with voting machines are harder to prove one way or the other without a paper trail.  Despite that issue, though, McKanna was confident in the integrity of the old system.  "I had full confidence in the old machines, because they were not connected to the internet in any way.  In Texas, the election code allows no voting machine to be online.  The only time the internet was involved was when we were uploading vote totals to the Secretary of State's office.   We tested (the machines) three or four times before we even sent them out to the polls.  But, I also have full confidence in the new system, and I think it will give voters more confidence, because they will have that paper ballot in their hands."

In Texas, local election officials can choose from among several voting systems certified by the state.  "We can pick which system we want to go to.  In some states, it is the same system across the state.  Because we are diversified, I feel like we are more protected," said McKanna.  She decided earlier in the year that the time had come to switch systems.  She could see the writing on the wall for the old machines.  Machines without a paper trail have fallen out of favor both with the federal government and legislators in Austin.  During the 86th Legislature, a measure to decertify the type of machines Moore County was using failed by a single vote.  McKanna says it is only a matter of time before the old machines are decertified, and she did not want to have to debut a new election system during a presidential election, so she went to the Moore County Commissioners and received authorization to make the switch this year.  "I wanted to get the equipment to use in a smaller election before the 2020 election," she said.  "That way we would be familiar with it; the voters would be familiar with it; and, the poll workers would be familiar with it."  As to the question of the reliability of the system, "I have complete confidence.  I wouldn't purchase anything I didn't have complete confidence in." 

The election takes place Nov. 5.  Early voting by mail has begun.  On the ballot will be 10 amendments to the state constitution and bond initiatives from the Dumas and Sunray Independent School Districts.  According to Brenda McKanna, persons may vote by mail who are 65 years of age or older, disabled, confined in jail, or expecting to be absent from the county on Nov. 5.  To request an application to vote by mail, call the Moore County Clerk at 935-2009 or 935-6164.  Applications should be mailed to Moore County Clerk, 715 Dumas Avenue, Room 107, Dumas,Texas 79029.  The office will accept applications through October 25, 2019.  

Early voting in person will begin Oct. 21, 2019 and last through Nov. 1, 2019.  Persons will be able vote from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Moore County Courthouse at 715 Dumas Avenue in Dumas; the 1st Street Annex at 310 East First Street in Dumas; or Cactus City Hall at  201 South Highway 287 in Cactus.    

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