Bexar County commissioners on Tuesday approved a more than $11 million contract for new voting machines.
The new machines promise to address some top complaints from voters, according to County Judge Nelson Wolff.
Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen told commissioners the new machines from the company Election Systems and Software should be in place for the November 2019 elections.
It is the same company that provides the current voting machines used by the county.
She said the machines will allow for the creation of super precincts where voters can cast ballots anywhere.
Callanen said the new voting system will also allow election workers to better track provisional ballots and reduce voter disenfranchisement.
“On election day, the majority of provisional ballots we get, as you all know, are for voters who did not go to their home precinct,” Callanen said. “We are never able to qualify those. We can’t open those. We lost hundreds of votes at major elections.”
She said the super precincts will also allow the county to pair down regular voting precincts and save the county money on elections. She said the state recommended to counties implementing super precincts to reduce regular precincts by one third, but Callanen said she thinks a precinct cut of less than a quarter is ideal.
She said her office will work with commissioners and examine voting histories to identify which regular precincts could be axed.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff praised one other benefit of the new voting machines: a paper trail that records the vote.
“There will be folks that will feel better because they have a piece of paper,” he said. “As much as we talk about entering the digital age, people still feel more comfortable with having a piece of paper.”
Callanen said the state will also inspect the machines for security against hackers before they are placed at the polls in November.
She said voters responded well to models of the new voting machines that were demonstrated at polling sites in May and will be displayed again at some voting locations on June 8.
Judge Wolff also pointed out during the meeting how Callanen and county commissioners have kept Bexar County on the cutting edge of voter technology for years.
“I think today we took a major step forward to encourage voting,” Wolff said.
Wolff praised Callanen as the most knowledgeable elections administrator in the state of Texas.
Callanen reported to commissioners that Bexar County was the third county in the nation to first have touch screen voting.