Travis County, home to Austin, has been working to build a better voting system – one that satisfies the need to maintain security and accessibility for voters. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, the chief election official, has been a part of developing the system, called STAR Vote, which would have replaced the current Hart InterCivic eSlate system that has been in use since 2001. That system cost roughly $7 million, and has seen several security augmentations over the years. DeBeauvoir was making considerable progress on STAR Vote until a few weeks ago, when it looked like the plan was starting to lose steam. The Austin Monitor headline read “STAR Vote collapses.” DeBeauvoir had worked with academics to develop the new system, but when it came time to seek bids to build it, DeBeauvoir says she didn’t receive any Requests for Proposal that filled the bill.
STAR Vote’s goal was to make voters more comfortable with the security and reliability of electronic voting, DeBeauvoir says. STAR Vote would have provided voters with a paper receipt of their ballot. Such a receipt is called a Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail, or VVPAT.
“The purpose of a VVPAT Is to make sure the voter knows for a fact that the choices they have entered on the electronic voting system are in fact the correct choices that really represent their decisions,” DeBeauvoir says.
Besides reassuring voters, a paper trail can help election officials perform post-election audits. “Most people think what we’re using the paper trail for is a recount,” she says. “You can just do post-election audits because you’re double-checking the math and the statistics of an election.”