SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – How you vote in Georgia will be changing, according to a new law signed recently by Governor Brian Kemp.
The law calls for scrapping the old, and now somewhat controversial, voting machines. Those will be replaced with a new system including what is termed “Electronic Ballot Marking Devices” as well as new types of digital scanners to actually record votes.
Supporters, which include many state lawmakers as well as Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, say the new system will provide a verifiable paper trail.
Opponents say just the opposite.
“The state is going to spend $150 million to $200 million and not be one bit better off than they are today,” said Marilyn Marks from the Coalition for Good Governance. “They should just keep the un-auditable system.”
Marks’ group is still embroiled in a lawsuit with the State of Georgia over issues from the 2018 election.
Marks has a list of concerns starting with the Electronic Marking Devices, which it’s said will print out a paper ballot that can then be verified by a voter and ultimately scanned by the digital scanner to actually cast the ballot.
She says two of the largest vendors that make these machines don’t really provide a paper ballot per se, but actually something more like a bar code. Marks asserts any new system will not truly have a verifiable paper trail and that she expects “many court challenges.”
A reversal of all this is the word from county election officials across Georgia, some of whom participated in the lengthy fact-finding mission about what the future of Georgia’s election system should look like.
The SAFE (Secure and Fair Elections) Commission issued a report earlier this year in which it called for the Electronic Marking Devices and scanners. It indicated that many officials across the state that will have to implement the new system favored the Electronic Marking Devices and digital scanning method.
One reason was that voters have been using machines for more than 15 years and it was perceived it would be an easier transition for the voter.
Marks counters by saying that up to 40,000 new computer Electronic Marking Devices may be needed in all of Georgia’s 159 counties. With a target date of 2020 and the all-important upcoming presidential election, she says it could be a very “chaotic election.”
“People who have done this have said it’s impossible for a whole state to this kind of complex implementation such a short period of time,” she said.
The Secretary of State’s Office is already seeking bids for vendors and moving forward with steps to implement the new law.