On Tuesday in Duluth, the Georgia Secretary of State’s office offered a first look at new voting machines that will be used in the 2020 presidential primaries in March, and eventually the 2020 general election in November.
These machines won’t be utilized in Gwinnett County election precincts until March 2020, but a storefront at Duluth’s Paragon Shopping Center was the site of a preview of the new technology on Tuesday. Johns Creek City Councilman Jay Lin introduced officials with the Secretary of State’s office before representatives with the company that will provide new machines conducted a demonstration.
The poll machines are a hybrid touch-screen and paper ballot voting device. The voter inserts a card into a machine with a touch screen to cast their ballot. A paper ballot is printed and delivered to a device that scans and records both the original paper ballot and a digital image of the ballot.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the new machines are more secure and could speed up the ballot casting process.
“We really improved the confidence in the elections,” Raffensperger said. “When we do that, I think it really helps take out some of the polarization that we have and some of the concerns that people have. We can drill down and get those answers, then the race is over and we can move on to the next race.”
After a bidding process, Georgia awarded Dominion Voting and its partner Know Ink, with a contract to supply the state’s voting machines. In March, local elections boards will complete a transition to the new technology. Scott Tucker, a Dominion Voting customer relations representative for Georgia, walked members of the media, politicians and other guests through the process of casting a ballot.
Voters deliver ID to a poll worker, who scans their driver’s license or manually inputs another form of ID. The worker verifies the voter’s identification and returns it with a card with precinct info and the ballot style. The voter inserts the card into the machine and casts their votes. After submitting, the card is removed and a ballot with a barcode is printed. The voter delivers the paper ballot to a bulky black device that scans the ballot and stores the physical copy.
No actual votes are recorded on the machine or the voter card, Tucker said.
Starting with fall municipal elections, there will be six pilot counties using the ballot marking device with touch screen technology— Lowndes, Decatur, Carroll, Paulding, Bartow and Catoosa. Raffensperger said there are approximately 2,000 machines that will operate in those counties.
“We’re in the process — and we’re ahead of schedule — of us certifying and testing each of those machines,” Raffensperger said.
The contract was in place before a federal ruling in August mandated that Georgia have paper ballots for the 2020 presidential primary. The Secretary of State’s office aims to have machines tested six weeks prior to when early voting begins. Pilot counties have been trained how the system works and the county elections boards will train their individual poll workers on the new systems.
“The rest of the counties in the state have already been scheduled for training in October,” Elections Director Chris Harvey said.
Harvey said that event at the is one of three opportunities county elections officials will have to be briefed on new systems before March primaries.
The new machines also run on an operating system that can be updated with regularity. Raffensperger said in the event of interference, the paper ballots provide a failsafe for verifying the accuracy of elections.
“They’ve not been hacked, but we understand that hackers never sleep, and nor can we,” Raffensperger said. “That’s the advantage of this. When you have a paper ballot, first of all, you can do a physical recount. So when you have a close election that’s within a half percent, we can open up the box and have a paper ballot to count.”
There will also be a hand-marked paper ballot pilot in Cobb County, a test of a system that would be used in the event of a power outage or weather event, as Raffensperger put it, but theoretically also in the event of human or mechanical error.