Confusion about new voting machines at Chatham County town hall

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Fears are growing Saturday about new voting machines and long lines at some polling locations.

State and local leaders gathered at a town hall on Savannah’s southside to talk about that, in addition to issues relating to gang violence, Hurricane Dorian and more.

State Representatives say the Secretary of State promised to provide a new polling machine for people at the town hall. It would have been one of the first opportunities for people to see how the new machine operates.

For some reason, the Secretary of State did not send a new machine to the meeting. State Representatives say that is one reason why people are confused.

The Secretary of State’s office says they did not know about the town hall and did not promise to provide a machine. They mentioned that they were very interested in providing one for another town hall.

The Secretary’s office says that the machines will be in Chatham County in time for the presidential primaries in March of 2020.

The new machines utilize touchscreen computers — like the old ones — and also print out a paper ballot.

Polling operators then scan the ballot and place it in a sealed box. If something happens to the technology, polling places can rely on the printed, paper ballots. Lawmakers hope the extra step prevents hacking and helps with auditing.

Representative Craig Gordon says state democrats wanted to go one step further. He says democrats wanted polling machines to print out another ‘receipt’ for voters to take home and keep for their personal records.

“We wanted something that voters could walk out with,” he told News 3. “Something they could keep for themselves along with something we can put in a lockbox.”

Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) Director Dennis Jones was also at the town hall to answer questions. People expressed concerns about safety and CEMA’s communication efforts during Hurricane Dorian.

At one point, someone asked why there was no curfew in the unincorporated areas of Chatham County.

“They didn’t feel it was warranted for the unincorporated county,” said Jones. “That’s a law enforcement decision.”

Savannah Mayor Edie Deloach says police arrested 20 people who were out after curfew and who had existing warrants.

Representative Bill Hitchens was also at the town hall to talk about his work on homeschooling regulations. He represents the district in Effingham County where police found two homeschooled teens buried in their own backyards.

Representative Carl Gilliard was also there to give an update on his committee to reduce gun violence. Earlier this month, he hosted a meeting with Chatham County’s law enforcement agencies to create a solution.

People who showed up had the chance to talk to each representative individually.

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