For years, poll workers have had to remind voters at Galveston County polling places that the voting machines they were using weren’t equipped with touch-screen technology.

Voters had to use a small panel, with a wheel and button controller, to cast votes and cast their ballots. Those machines were less than intuitive, so much so that in some counties they’ve been blamed for miscast votes.

Starting Monday, those warnings and complaints will be no more in Galveston. When voters begin casting ballots for the May 4 election, they’ll be using brand new, touch-screen voting machines for the first time.

“We’ll have to take some words out of our vocabulary, because we were always telling them they weren’t touch screens,” said Ernie Murrie, Galveston County’s Chief Deputy Clerk for Elections. “Now we have the touch screens.”

In December, county commissioners approved spending $3.2 million to purchase more than 500 new voting machines.

The old machines have been recycled, Murrie said.

The new touch-screen machines are an improvement over the old wheel-and-button combo, Murrie said. The screens more clearly show which race a person is voting in and which candidate they’ve chosen. There’s also an easy-to-read final review page that will let voters see who they chose before submitting a final ballot.

It was confusion about the displays of final votes that in recent years have led people to claim their votes were wrong on the county’s old, eSlate-style machines.

The complaints have been made in Galveston County and other places as far back as 2008.

The Texas Secretary of State’s office said most of the complaints were the result of user errors caused by people spinning the dial wheel and hitting a button before the device caught up to where they were on the ballot.

The county’s poll workers have been trained to use the new devices, and are prepared to help people learn how to use them first the first time, official said.

The new technology should also make counting votes at the end of election night faster, Murrie said.

The new voting machines were taken to polling places on Thursday. Polling places open at 8 a.m. on Monday for the first day of early voting. Election day is May 4.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; or on Twitter @johnwferguson.


(4) comments

Bailey Jones

How secure are these machines compared to the old? Do they print a paper backup? I assume they don't connect to the Internet, ever?

Carlos Ponce

The pictured model looks like the Hart Intercivic Verity Touch Controller.

Gary Miller

A real improvement would be a voting machine that could tell if the voter was legal.

John Cole

John, I have suggested, for years, that there should be a backup to the electronic balloting system in the case of re counts, voter fraud Disputes, etc. Until these issues are addressed, then this new system will simply perpetuate a potential Larger Fraud on Voters. Therefore, I suggest, along with this new system; a paper backup that reflects an accurate Voter Count. Dr. John Cole-Friendswood

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