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Open house dates set to test new voting system

Voters can test out the county's new paper ballot voting system during a pair of open houses next week.

The Denton County Elections Administration is showing off the Hart Verity Voting System from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and again from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday. Attendees will get a chance to try out the system, which prints and scans paper ballots. 

Election officials will be on hand to answer questions about the system, which will be used for the first time during the November general election.

Denton County Commissioners have approved a new voting system that will only record paper ballots. The machines shown above produce and scan custom, full-sized paper ballots. Election Administrator Frank Phillips said the nearly $9 million system will help the county avoid the confusion of last year's election debacle.hartintercivic.com
Denton County Commissioners have approved a new voting system that will only record paper ballots. The machines shown above produce and scan custom, full-sized paper ballots. Election Administrator Frank Phillips said the nearly $9 million system will help the county avoid the confusion of last year's election debacle.
hartintercivic.com

The new system will feature Poll Pads, tablet-like devices that check voters in and prints receipt codes. A poll worker will scan the code through the Verity machine and provide the voter with the appropriate ballot. Voters then will mark their ballots and scan them through an on-site scanning machine.

"This is the newest technology out there," Phillips said. "So far, we're the only county in the state using only paper with this system."

County commissioners approved the $9 million purchase in June after a tumultuous November election that eventually led to the ouster of two elections office employees. 

During the election, voters and voting officials reported equipment glitches, inaccurate voter ID signs and ballots delivered to the wrong precincts. Elections officials had to do three recounts because counted ballots were mixed with untabulated ballots.

Phillips said a recount would be much easier with the new system if the need arose.

"In November, they had to go back and recreate a lot of electronic data," Phillips said. "Now in any kind of a recount, we can turn to the ballot that the voter actually cast."

The Texas Secretary of State's office began investigating the election issues and reported that understaffing and inexperience were the main factors behind the mishaps.

The decision to replace the 12-year-old machines used in November was a bipartisan effort. Both Republican Party Chairwoman Lisa Hendrickson and Democratic Party Chairwoman Phyllis Wolper agreed in June that the new system will help restore public confidence in the elections process.

For any questions regarding the open house or the voting system, call the Denton County Elections Administration at 940-349-3200.

CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862.