Should Bexar County go back to paper ballots for security reasons?


    (SBG San Antonio)

    As we approach a pivotal mid-term election, officials have been tightening up their defenses against hackers. After the mayoral election last year, IT experts here in Bexar County reported more than 280,000 cyber-attacks had been made against county computers.

    That has some calling for a return to using paper ballots.

    “It sounds like I want to go back to horse and buggy days, but what I want to have are secure votes and this is the only way we know because all of the electronic systems have proven that they can be hacked," says Susan Korbel of the Election Protection Coalition.

    Korbel says paper ballots provide a tangible record documenting how each person voted.

    The group echoes the concerns many people have after seeing videos from the DEF CON Hacking Conference in Las Vegas earlier this year, where experts demonstrated how quick and easy it is to infiltrate some electronic voting machines.

    Colorado recently announced it will use only paper ballots, after that state, Texas and others, were targeted thousands of times by hackers from Russia and Ukraine.

    I took those concerns to Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen, who's been busy preparing for the election. Callanen insists our voting machines are secure and no one is ever allowed unauthorized access to them.

    “If somebody had unfettered access to this and any amount of time, but nobody has unfettered access to these. We have a strict chain of custody, we know where they are, we know what's in them. I have absolute confidence in the system we have," Callanen says.

    “Voters are used to it, we've had it since 2002, they're very comfortable with this system."

    As we previously reported, the county has set aside about $12-million to pay for new machines that will likely have an added security feature. People will still vote electronically, but a paper receipt is generated showing their choices which can later be checked against what's recorded by the machine.

    County Commissioner Tommy Calvert and other county officials got to test out one such model over the summer. Calvert says he pushed to buy the new machines sooner.

    “I'm very troubled we did not implement the timeline that we should have which was to have the new system rolled by this November's election," Calvert says.

    As it stands, the county plans to have the new system purchased and ready to go for 2019's May election.

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