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Harris County's use of Vote Centers needs watching
Elections are secure,
dispite ludicrous allegations
The Michael Flynn investigation was a Travesty

February 19, 2020
Image of the printed version of the column from the Galveston Daily News Galveston County Daily News

As a follow up to John Ferguson’s story (February 9; Despite Iowa, officials say county voting secure) our elections are secure and here is why. 
  • All of the voting equipment we have has been thoroughly tested and certified by federal and state authorities for use in Texas.

  • Election equipment cannot be hacked.  In order to hack one needs access to the equipment. None of the voting machines, nor the computers used to program the ballots, are connected to the image of locked and sealed controllerInternet (e.g., No Access).  Additionally, the “brains” of every deployed voting machine is locked with a key that only the county election staff have.  Each “brain” has a numbered seal which is checked and verified when returned to central count.  If any tampering were to occur that seal would need to be broken and be obvious to election officials.

So contrary to Laura Pressley, and those who subscribe to her conspiracy theories, there is no hacking of voting machines at the polls!

Back at central count there are additional safeguards in place to ensure the integrity of our elections:

  • The ballots are programmed by three county employees working together and none of the equipment is touched without at least two of them being in the room.

  • On election night Republican and Democrat judges are in the counting station overseeing the tabulation process.

  • Additionally, there is an audit trail that records every action taken on the tallying equipment.

So, suggestions that “…elections across the state of Texas were being hacked and manipulated…” are ludicrous!  Just as ridiculous is the idea that if the candidates a person supports are not elected it proves the election was “rigged.”  I ran unsuccessfully for Congress but lost not because a flaw in the election process.

Meanwhile Pressley and some in the state legislature want to force counties to have a paper backup to the electronic vote.  They want paper ballots if there’s  a recount, assuming they are more reliable. Unfortunately, their reliability is questionable. 

In November 2010 when I was serving as the Presiding Judge of Central Count, we ran the Logic and Accuracy test.  Here is how it works. 

  • Paper test ballots are prepared that include all the possible voting combinations for each race and each precinct.  These are scanned, just like the actual ballots by mail. 

  • These test paper ballots are then voted on the electronic voting machines. 

The results from both should agree, thus verifying the accuracy of the electronic tallying equipment.  This was done and everything balanced. Then one other step was added; they did a manual count for further verification.  The first manual count didn’t match the machine results.  A second manual count was done and it didn’t agree with the first manual count nor the electronic count (that already balanced).  The bottom line is whenever you rely upon manual counting of paper ballots you introduce human error; the results are usually not accurate. Why spend over $3 million in taxpayer dollars to upgrade to a paper back up when what we have works? 

So, when Dwight Sullivan, your County Clerk, says our elections are secure,
believe him!  He’s telling the truth!

Bill Sargent served as the county's chief deputy clerk for elections for more than six years
and helped improve the Texas Election Code. 

Author and Columnist
Photo of Bill (Sarge) Sargent
February 19, 2020