Updated: New voting machines to be more efficient and secure

BROWNSVILLE — The most significant difference between Cameron County’s old voting machines and its new ones is their ability to digitally scan ballots, or put simply, more efficiency and security.

The security comes from encrypted data that is not connected to the internet and an eight-hour battery backup. The efficiency is a result of the machine being able to continuously process ballots.

“The previous version would count the dots as the ballots are processed, but this one takes a picture of the ballot itself,” Elections Administrator Remi Garza said. “If the optical scanner couldn’t pick up what was on the ballot, we’d have to stop and review it.”

The machine that processes the ballots, the DS450, has a sorter for that situation. Potentially, the new voting equipment could lead to quicker counts in the future.

All of the old voting machines have been replaced with a newer model, the DS200, which is easier to operate and provides voters with clear instructions. If the machine detects that a field is left empty, it will inform the voter and ask if they still want to cast the vote.

“The voting process is completely the same, but it’s just more up to date,” Garza said.

The DS200 voting machines cost about $5,700 each. The two DS450s, on the other hand, were about $45,000 each. In total, the project is expected to cost about $2.5 million and will be implemented in phases. The county traded in all of its old equipment for a discount, Garza said.

“Securing votes has no price. We’re doing all we can to have efficient, accurate results,” Garza said.

The new voting machines will be ready for this November’s elections. The next step is to upgrade the county’s ADA devices, Garza said.

Residents have until Oct. 10 to register for the 2017 November elections.

Citizens can vote on seven state constitutional amendments, one county proposition and, if they are a resident of Port Isabel or Los Fresnos, propositions for those cities. Also, there is a proposition for those who live in the Laguna Madre water district.