New voting machine open for public testing

Chris Moody, a sales director with Electronic Systems & Software, demonstrates a precinct scanner before members of the Cooke County Commissioners Court.

Cooke County Clerk Pam Harrison said the public can now test out an ExpressVote machine at the Cooke County Courthouse in downtown Gainesville at 101 S. Dixon St.

The county is considering purchasing the ExpressVote ballot marking devices to replace its 34 AutoMARK machines, and Harrison said she wants the public to feel comfortable using them before the November Constitutional Amendment Election.

“I hope people will come up and see what it’s all about,” Harrison said.

Anyone interested in testing the new equipment should go to the Cooke County Clerk’s Office inside the courthouse and ask, she said. Office hours are 8 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The AutoMARKs were purchased for the blind and hearing impaired to get the county in compliance with the Help America Vote Act, according to a previous report by the Register.

An ExpressVote machine is similar to an AutoMARK, but it prints out a paper ballot after choices are marked on a screen by the voter instead of requiring a paper ballot to be inserted into the machine, according to Harrison.

Last month, members of the Cooke County Commissioners Court talked about buying new voting equipment after Harrison announced that 25 electronic pollbooks purchased in 2010 from Election Administrators, now known as KNOWiNK, are obsolete.

During the Thursday, May 9, meeting, Harrison said she spoke with County Judge Jason Brinkley and the two looked at ExpressPoll tablets and ExpressVote machines by Electronic Systems & Software.

An e-pollbook verifies the voter and checks them in, according to Harrison. The only difference between the e-pollbooks the county has been using and the ExpressPoll tablets is that the voter signs electronically, she said.

The possible purchase of DS200 precinct scanners was also brought up.

Harrison said Friday, June 14, that the scanners would count the votes as the ballots are turned in which, in turn, would “make the returns a lot faster.”

There are 17 polling locations in the county including the Cooke County Courthouse Annex used for early voting, she said.

No action was taken at the May meeting so the commissioners could see a presentation of the new equipment from ES&S.

Chris Moody, a sales director with ES&S, was present at the Monday, June 10, meeting to demonstrate all three machines the county is looking at purchasing. No action was taken after the demonstration.

On Friday, Brinkley said the purchase would be on the next court agenda for consideration, and will likely be voted on unless commissioners feel they need more information.

Harrison said she would be proposing two different quotes to commissioners. One would be for 22 ExpressPoll tablets, 34 ExpressVote machines and four precinct scanners. The other would be for 22 ExpressPoll tablets, 41 ExpressVote machines and five scanners, she said.

There is a budget amendment in the works that will be considered along with the purchase, Brinkley said.

“It is estimated that the cost will be around $180,000 - $220,000 depending upon the amount of equipment,” he said.

The commissioners plan to meet again at 10 a.m. Monday, June 24, inside the historic courthouse in downtown Gainesville.