James Magazine Mar Apr 2020 - Page 44

One of now-Gov. Brian Kemp’s last big acts as Secretary
of State was to create the Secure, Accessible & Fair
Elections (SAFE) Commission to explore replacing
Georgia’s 16-year-old voting machines. With heightened
alert across the country regarding the potential for hacking, Kemp recognized that using year 2000 technology in
2020 elections warranted a review.
There was a push from many Democrats, and some
Republicans, for paper ballots. Ultimately, the SAFE
Commission voted 13-3 to support a replacement of the
state’s machines— with the three coming from two
Democratic lawmakers and a computer science professor
at Georgia Tech who remained worried about the security of the electronic devices.
Georgia was just one of five states that used machines
that did not print a paper record of the voter’s choices.
Rather than deal with a new set of logistics problems with
all paper ballots, the 13 commissioners in support and then
the Republican-led legislature settled on something they
felt was a compromise between the two— electronic
machines that printed a paper receipt for each voter.
Over $100 million of taxpayer money has been spent
on the new machines and on their rollout in recent at test
sites and in special elections for live voting. The
Secretary of State’s office also launched “Secure the
Vote,” an education initiative to show citizens and election officials what to expect when voting.
“We are fundamentally changing and improving how
elections are conducted in Georgia. We look forward to educating voters on the advantages and accessibility of the
new system,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says.
“We want to make sure every eligible vote cast is counted,
that our elections are secure from bad actors and misinformation is combated. Whether it be from foreign adversaries
or domestic activists, misinformation campaigns undermine confidence and drive down turnout. The new system
allows us to combat these actors by conducting robust
audits to help ensure the accuracy of the election.”
The machines were expected to make their debuts in
March, but the deaths of two General Assembly members
prompted the unforeseen special elections that pushed
up that date. “Rep. (Jay) Powell and Sen. (Greg) Kirk’s
unfortunate deaths forced the state and the counties to
speed up the timetable for implementing the new paperballot system, and everyone stepped forward admirably,”
Raffensperger said. “Rolling it out across 159 counties
during the primary is a bigger task, and some human
errors can be expected, naturally.”
In one of the special elections, a scanner that lost
power was discovered to have become unplugged, and a
few ballots were placed into an emergency ballot box
while the problem was rectified.
Deb Cox is the Director of Elections for Lowndes
County and has been pleased with the new machines.
continued on page 46


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