How Texas voter security stacks up to Russian hackers

Christopher Davis standing next to voting booths. (KXAN Photo)
Christopher Davis standing next to voting booths. (KXAN Photo)

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Tuesday was the last night you can register to vote for the Presidential Election and there have been questions about protecting your vote.

The state of Arizona says Russia attempted to breach their system and the Federal Government says it has evidence Russia has attempted to sway the US election this November.

We wanted to take an in-depth look at how Texas will make sure your vote is counted and went north to Williamson County to see how their system works and see what safety procedures they have in place. The message there: the less technology involved the safer your vote is.

Historic numbers stand on the walls of the election office as registered voters in Williamson County reach 300,000.

“When it comes to election time we use laptops like these as a form of electronic poll book,” said Christopher Davis, as he pulls out a laptop from a multi-level shelf of them. He runs the election here and says the laptops keep the list of who can vote and if somebody would hack in and put names in or take names out, they won’t be turned away at the polls, but verified right after the election.

“A ballot board of several people go through it and check if something wrong with our laptop, we haven’t had that yet but if there was. We check our main database here and we check state records,” said Davis.

But what about hacking into one of the voting machines? Well that’s not possible because they’re off-line. All the information is stored in memory chips that are manually taken to county headquarters.

“We refer to it as ‘sneaker net’. These poll workers are putting on their sneakers, pulling out these cards, and they’re driving and manually delivering them to us,” said Davis.

And once collected, Williamson County workers will personally type in the vote numbers into the Secretary of State website. While estimates are available election night, the exact vote count isn’t finished until they go through each vote on this dinosaur of a printer. Here in Williamson County paper and people are the best defense against hacking.

UT professor Jeremi Suri studies geopolitics and these attempted hacks by Russia. He says another line of defense is our decentralized system: all 254 counties run their own elections and then report to the state.

So if someone were to hack into a county, they wouldn’t get to the state database. If someone breaks into the state, the individual counties would have backups. But they do say the best way to make sure your vote counts is to vote early. So if there is a problem, there’s time to figure it all out.

With less than a month left before election day, there are some things you should know before heading to the polls.

To vote in this election, you don’t have to show a photo ID as long as you sign an affidavit. But you do need prove where you live by bringing something like a utility bill.

In September, a federal judge ordered the state to change the way it tells people how to vote. Texas has spent more than $2 million on voter outreach, to tell people about the changes. This came after the courts ruled the state’s voter id laws were unconstitutional. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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