DALLAS — Voters tested Georgia’s new paper-ballot voting system Tuesday in local elections across the state.
Six counties are trying their hands at the touchscreen machines that generate a printed ballot — the low-turnout elections pilot a small sampling, compared to what’s coming next year. The Secretary of State’s office plans to implement the new system in all 159 counties by the March 24 presidential primary.
A federal judge in August gave Georgia until the first of the year to retire its old system. The new $107 million system will be the first update to Georgia’s election system since 2002.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger spent time on Tuesday at the Paulding County Courthouse, one of the locations testing the new system.
Raffensperger told CNHI that the rural counties piloting the system were picked in specific geographic locations — on the borders of Tennessee and Florida and at points in between — to test for “stress points” in the system.
“We’re rolling through it, minor stuff happens time to time but that’s why you do pilots so they don’t happen on a big election day,” he said.
Raffensperger said there are 11,000 news machines waiting to be rolled out for the presidential primary in March. The elections office is “ahead of schedule.”
The system requires hundreds of thousands of paper ballots. Benefits of the paper print outs, he said, outweighs the electronic systems that “aged out” and were not kept updated.
“There’s going to be a whole lot more paper, you’re going to need the county commissioners, yes you’re going to need some large warehouses,” Raffensperger said, “but if you look at right now, over 7 percent of all people in America are voting with a paper ballot system of some sort. I think by 2020, 2024 it will probably be close to 100 percent.”
As voters cast ballots, the new system is the center of another complaint in federal court with voter advocates saying the new system has security flaws similar to the previous system, was not tested and certified properly and, if implemented, violates the First and 14th Amendments, protecting voters rights to a transparent and anonymous process.
“The new electronic system converts voters’ votes and ballots into undecipherable bar codes, forcing voters to cast a vote that they cannot read,” Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, said in a statement. “The bar codes can be miscoded or hacked without detection. Every voter, not just legal scholars, can see why this method of conducting elections is unconstitutional.”
Their request for a judge to stop the statewide implementation of the new machines, is still pending.
Raffensperger said he is not concerned about the lawsuit and that he is confident the system will work as well in Georgia as it has in other states it is already implemented in.
“It’s being used right now in red states, blue states, red counties, blue counties, purple counties, you name it. The system is accurate and secure and what the voting system is doing is accurately recording votes,” he said. “It’s not trying to determine winners. People who determine winners are the voters, what people need to worry about.”
The system will allow physical recounts for the first time in 17 years, he said, and audits of voting samples will help determine if the votes were counted accurately.
“We understand 50 percent of the voters will be happy and 50 percent of the voters will be sad,” Raffensperger said. “Because we understand we live in polarized times. But we want 100 percent of voters to have the confidence that their vote was accurately counted.”