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New Harris County voting machines provide backup paper ballots

Elections officials say the touchscreen voting system will make voting easier and adds another layer of security.

HOUSTON — Harris County is changing the way residents cast their ballots in upcoming elections.

Harris County Elections officials unveiled a new state-of-the-art touchscreen voting system they said will make voting easier and adds another layer of security.

The new machines will cost the county more than $50 million.

Harris County administrator Isabel Longoria said it was the first time in more than 10 years the county will be using new voting machines.

“We’re looking at about 2,500 machines for the May election but we’ve got 12,000 total coming in for November,” Longoria said.

The Hart InterCivic voting system works just like the old machines.

“They’ll get an access code. They’ll enter it into the machine. They’ll have a touchscreen instead of the wheel and the button like they have in the past,” Senior vice president for customer success for Hart InterCivic Peter Lichtenheld said.

After going through the ballot and making their selections, voters will have an extra step. Lichtenheld said they’ll have to hit a print option.

The big difference between this new system and the old machines is that it prints out a paper ballot. He said before the vote can be counted, it must be inserted into one of their scanning devices.

“And the security that you know when that ballot got counted you have a backup that is software-independent, that piece of paper,” Lichtenheld said. “If we have to do a recount, or otherwise audit an election, we’ll both be able to do the electronic count ... and if need be, go through those paper ballots and count them one by one just to double-check.”

She said the new process will give voters peace of mind.