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Bexar County planning to replace old electronic voting machines

(Photo: SBG San Antonio)

SAN ANTONIO - Plans are underway to replace electronic voting machines in Bexar County, which are some of the oldest in the nation. Can we rely on their security and accuracy in the next election?

Our current system uses some 1990's technology, like zip discs and other components that are getting harder and harder to find.

“Our machines are 16 years old, we were one of the first counties in the nation to go electronic," says Jacque Callanen, Bexar County Election Administrator.

Callanen says the low-tech nature of our voting machines actually adds to their security. They are not part of any network.

"Our units are completely stand alone. They are not connected to each other, there's no internet in the room,” Callanen said.

However, the machines are getting more expensive to maintain, Callanen puts the cost at about $300,000 a year. Parts and supplies are also getting harder to come by. Like the "data bricks" which store voting information.

Results from mail-in ballots still must be transferred using zip discs. Bexar County was running dangerously low on them until Callanen mentioned the shortage in an interview.

"All of a sudden from all over the country we started to receive zip disks and it was from other election departments saying, 'We're not using them anymore, here they are,’” Callanen said.

Counties across Texas are scrambling to find money to replace their older voting machines. However, Callanen says she believes Bexar County is close to doing it. She expects to put out a request for proposals toward the end of this year.

Bexar county currently has 2,842 electronic voting machines. Callanen estimates a cost of $11 to 12 million to replace them.

It's possible the midterm election coming up in November could be the last time Bexar County uses the old machines. Callanen hopes to buy new ones and have them ready by the election in May of 2019.

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