Imagine casting your vote on an everyday touch-screen tablet that prints out a paper copy of your ballot, as well as a take-home receipt you can use to verify it was counted. Such a system could be in place at Travis County polls as early as 2017. For the past three years, the county and a group of experts have been designing the specifications for new voting software that would rein in costs while providing what critics of electronic machines have long requested: a verifiable paper trail. “You can never win the argument over black box voting,” said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir. Under the system being developed, a voter would use a device — likely a tablet — to fill out an electronic ballot and then print out a paper copy for voters to check. The electronic ballot wouldn’t be tallied unless the voter deposited the paper copy into a ballot box that scans a serial number printed on it. The voter would also receive a receipt with a code that can be entered online to confirm the ballot was counted.
DeBeauvoir compares the code to a FedEx tracking number that not only tells the sender that his or her package arrived but also indicates “whether the contents of the package arrived intact and undisturbed.” The code only gets activated when the paper ballot lands in the ballot box.
DeBeauvoir also envisions a system that saves money. Rather than running the software on voting machines that can cost $3,500 to $4,000 apiece — not to mention the roughly $250,000 a year on maintenance costs and licensing fees — the county plans to buy off-the-shelf hardware, such as tablets, that can run for less than $1,000 apiece, she said.