Getting more equipment: Commissioners OK purchase of election machines

Cooke County Precinct 1 Commissioner Gary Hollowell looks at the stack of equipment that election workers have to take to polling locations. Officials discussed how to better deliver the equipment during a meeting of the Cooke County Commissioners’ Court on Monday, July 27, and plan to bring the topic back to a future meeting.

Cooke County is about to add to its stock of electronic voting machines.

Cooke County Clerk Pam Harrison told the Register on Wednesday, July 29, that she ordered 31 ExpressVote ballot marking machines and four DS200 precinct scanners.

The purchase was approved Monday, July 27, by unanimous vote of the Cooke County Commissioners’ Court.

The sales order agreement from Election Systems & Software was for $133,479.50, according to information provided to commissioners.

Harrison said the county has a $120,000 grant authorized under the Help America Vote Act and funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The county has to match $16,000.

“I got it as close as I could … ,” Harrison said.

Harrison told commissioners Monday that the election equipment should arrive in time for the November presidential election.

Early voting for the Nov. 3 election begins Oct. 13 and ends Oct. 30. Gov. Greg Abbott extended the early voting period this week because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The purchase of the electronic voting equipment will bring the total number of ExpressVote ballot marking machines to 75 and precinct scanners to nine, Harrison said.

County commissioners initially agreed to buy ExpressVotes and precinct scanners last summer. The November 2019 Constitutional Amendment Election was the first time Cooke County voters used the ballot marking devices — essentially a touchscreen computer that prints a marked paper ballot based on a voter’s choices on the screen.

Earlier this month, Harrison said she thought the results for the Democratic and Republican party joint primary runoff election were available quicker because of the ExpressVotes.

She said the majority of the ballots cast were from voters using the ExpressVotes, which, she says, create a “perfect ballot.”

A previous Register report indicates that only four ballots had to be resolved on election night, July 14. Harrison said resolving ballots is usually very time-consuming because a board has to determine what the voter’s intention was.

Officials also discussed how to deliver election equipment this year during Monday’s meeting of the Cooke County Commissioners’ Court. One option they considered was hiring a moving company. Typically, officials with the Cooke County Sheriff’s Office deliver the scanners, according to Harrison.

Harrison said she is going to look into ways to get election equipment to each voting precinct. The topic will be brought to commissioners at a future meeting.

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