Constituents of Oakland County, Mich., will use new electronic voting machines when they cast their ballots in the municipal primaries in August.
Oakland County joins several of its fellow Michigan counties with its installation of the Verity Voting system, which replaces an electronic system that has been in use for more than 10 years. Lisa Brown, Oakland County’s clerk, said updating the voting system is a way to assuage her constituents’ concerns about election security.
“After last election, I think a lot of people were skeptical that their vote counted. One candidate kept yelling it was rigged,” Brown said in an exclusive interview with 21st Century State & Local. “We went with it because of security. They have only one tabulator so that a ballot can’t be counted twice.”
Verity Voting is produced by Hart InterCivic, a voting technology company based in Austin, Texas. Hart is one of three election system vendors Michigan has approved; the state is funding an initiative to replace outdated election equipment throughout its 83 counties. Oakland County is the third county in Michigan to adopt Hart’s system.
Some of the nation’s strictest voting laws are found in Michigan. Brown stated that people need one of six preordained reasons to vote absentee, and that there are no early voting opportunities.
“Some places use tablets and smartphones. We’re nowhere near allowing this in Michigan,” Brown said. “I don’t foresee that happening in the next 10 years, unfortunately. We’re one of the most restrictive states for voting.”
The Verity Voting system comes in a suitcase-like container. The suitcase contains a universal voting device, which resembles a thick, heavy tablet. This Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant tablet offers both the touch-screen option and a controllable tactile device for people to record their responses. Their votes are then printed out and fed into a tabulator machine.
Brown said electronic systems can compile results “in the snap of fingers.” Polls in Oakland County close at 8 p.m. Using the current system, Director of Elections Joe Rozell first received the presidential election results at 8:45 p.m. A trial run revealed that the new system delivers results at 8:05 p.m.
In order to protect election data, Oakland County’s precincts send the results over a secure network provided by AT&T to one computer. Election officers transfer the responses from this computer to a thumb drive, and then plug the thumb drive into another computer to view the results.
“It significantly reduced the amount of time for results,” Rozell said.
Brown and Rozell tested the three certified systems during their request for proposal process. Each vendor came to Oakland County to demonstrate their systems. Brown said her team chose Voter Verity not only because it was secure, but also because it is more recent than the other two certified systems. Michigan certified the Hart system in 2015; Rozell said the other system options were certified in 2006 and 2008.
Brown and Rozell are in the process of installing the new system. The county’s special election on May 2 will be the last election conducted on the current system.
“The cost of ownership will be less,” Rozell said. “The newer tech will hopefully last more than 10 years.”