The 2020 election cycle will likely be one election officials in Georgia will not soon forget. Next year is not only a presidential election year, but locally there is the possibility of a referendum for a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax in addition to the election of local constitutional officers.
All of the voting in 2020 will be conducted on the state’s new election system, which features paper ballots.
After a competitive selection process, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced recently the selection of Dominion Voting Systems to implement its new verified paper ballot system. Implementation of the new secure voting system will start immediately and be in place and fully operational for the March 24, 2020 Presidential Preference Primary.
“Elections security is my top priority,” said Raffensperger. “We look forward to working with national and local elections security experts to institute best practices and continue to safeguard all aspects of physical and cyber-security in an ever-changing threat environment.”
Grady County Election Superintendent, Probate Judge Denise Maddox said her preference would not have been to introduce a totally new voting system during the hectic presidential election cycle, but she remains confident the new system will be put into operation here as seamlessly as possible.
“We are still in the dark on some of it but I should have some of the new equipment in by the end of this month so that we can begin our training,” Mrs. Maddox said.
The Grady County elections superintendent says the new Ballot Marking Devices operate similarly to the existing touchscreen voting machines that have been in use here since 2002 with the exception that once a voter is finished voting, rather than casting their ballot they will print out a paper copy of their ballot. Each Ballot Marking Device station will be equipped with printers.
According to Mrs. Maddox, the voter can review the ballot to make sure it is accurate and as they go to leave the precinct they will insert the paper ballot into a scanner which will tabulate the results and the paper ballot is deposited into a locked ballot box for retrieval as needed for audits or recounts.
“It doesn’t look really difficult,” she added.
The new system is being piloted in up to six counties this November for local elections, according to Mrs. Maddox, including Decatur and Lowdnes counties in southwest Georgia.
“We are honored to partner with the State of Georgia to deliver a best-in-class system that is fully adaptable to state needs,” said Dominion CEO John Poulous. “Election officials and voters alike can be assured they are using the most modern, accessible and security-focused system on the market today, with paper ballots for every vote cast to ease auditing and ensure confidence in results.”
The state is providing Grady County with 66 ballot marking devices, 16 polling place scanners, 27 poll pads (which poll workers use to check in voters at each polling place), one Opti-Scan central scanning device (used to scan mailed in ballots and provisional ballots) and one election management system computer.
In addition to local training, Mrs. Maddox said she and her staff as well as poll workers will take advantage of regional training conducted by the vendor.
“It’s a new way of doing things and it will be a busy year ahead, but we will be prepared. We will also work to make sure the public is educated and comfortable using the new system,” Mrs. Maddox said.
The Nov. 5 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum and Cairo municipal elections will be the last elections to be conducted using the existing system.
The new system will be used for the March 24, 2020 presidential primary and into the future.
The state awarded the $107 million contract to Dominion Voting, a Denver-based company, for 30,000 new voting machines.