Bexar County elections administrator says voting system secure

Machines equipped with checks, balances

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County has added some 100,000 voters, and that means more questions about the security of the voting system in light of all the concerns of forces outside of the county having some sort of influence over the election by hacking into our system.

Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen is confident in the county’s system. She said the system is very secure.

There are several reasons Callanen is confident in the integrity of the 2,843 voting machines that will be in service at 300 voting sites this campaign season. First and foremost, the machines stand alone.

"That means it is not cabled to anything," Callanen said.

The machines are equipped with layers of checks and balances. Each machine has a flash card that has a coordinating number. That card is one element of data collection.  There is also a personal electronic ballot, which is a block that is inserted into the machine by an election official every time a voter steps up to the machine.

The block contains the actual ballot.

"This is the file cabinet of ballots," Callanen said.

There are three backups to secure a vote: the card, the block and, if needed, the machine itself, plus officials can also check the voter rolls for who showed up to cast a ballot.

On election night, the block is taken to a regional sending office and sent to the main office via analog phone line. That site is guarded by law enforcement officers. The information comes in encrypted and then it is decrypted in a room where only six workers are allowed. There is also a machine that records the votes on paper for another backup.

Even when the county posts results as they come in on its website, it is not connected to any other system in the central control room.

"When I say I am comfortable, I am absolutely comfortable. The checks and balances, we've got them at every level," Callanen said.

About the Author:

David Sears, a native San Antonian, has been at KSAT for more than 20 years.