On August 15 and 16, 2018, Ellis County Elections department invited voters to see and experience demonstrations of proposed new voting equipment.
To my happy surprise, neither was a "voting machine" (or DRE). Both systems were "ballot marking machines." (See images below this article.)
Both systems used touch screen computers to make it easy to see your choices in each race, make your selections and print a paper ballot. Both ballot styles include election ID info and a unique, human-readable ballot number, as required by law.
Both machines ensure you have voted everywhere you are allowed, including where you can make multiple choices. And they prevent you from over-voting, or making more choices than allowed. You have multiple opportunities to review your votes before the next step.
You then take the paper ballot showing your selections, and run it through a separate scanner, just as we've done with paper ballots for decades. The paper ballots fall into a locking bin below the scanner where they are secured and saved for audit or recount purposes.
The scanner in each system tabulates the votes electronically and records them on a secured memory card or flashdrive, which is taken to Central Counting where all polling locations' votes are tallied. According to reps for each system's vendor, there are no wireless connections in any of the devices, not even for maintenance/upgrade purposes. If that's true, then the greatest potential for corruption comes with the handling of those memory cards/flashdrives at the polling locations and Central Counting. The advantage here, for both systems, is that there are paper ballots to back up (or contradict) the electronic data.
The Hart InterCivic system produces a full-page ballot showing all the races, propositions and options, with your specific choices marked. The ES&S system produces a narrow ballot that only shows your choices.
The ES&S equipment costs about $500,000 less than the Hart equipment. There may be additional savings on the blank ES&S ballots purchased for each election as well.
For more step-by-step information on how voting works with each system, see my pdf here.
Another option is to keep using the old-style paper ballots where voters manually mark their votes in ink. However, the scanners are getting old and have to be repaired more often.
If you have a preference or have any questions about the voting options, be sure to contact the Ellis County Elections office.
(Below left) Hart InterCivic ballot marking machine and ballot printer, (center) completed paper ballot, and (right) ballot scanner with locking bin for ballots below.
(Left, below) ES&S ballot marking machine and printer with narrow ballot, and (right) ES&S ballot scanner with locking bin below for ballot storage.