The effort begins in earnest later this week to replace Georgia’s elections system. Georgia’s current voting system is a very familiar electronic touchscreen that uses technology developed 20 years ago. A half-dozen companies have told the Georgia Secretary of State’s office they are submitting proposals. Most of them appear to want to give voters a new touchscreen interface. After tapping their choices in the new systems, voters would hit the “print” button and produce a paper ballot, then submitting the paper ballot to a scanner. But several of the new systems translate voter choices into barcodes. And many election watchdogs are skeptical of them. “The problem with a barcode on a voter verified paper ballot is that the voter can’t actually verify the barcode. Because we can’t read barcode marks,” said Susan Greenhalgh of the National Election Defense Coalition.
A couple of the vendors appear to skip electronic interfaces and offer old-school paper ballots, with voters filling in bubbles alongside the names of candidates. Those ballots are also scanned. But the scanners only scan the bubbles and don’t scan barcodes.
Greenhalgh thinks Georgia should think hard before going back to using ballot box computers or embracing barcodes. “It’s entirely possible to hack a system, so the barcode records your vote incorrectly while the printout (text) shows your vote correctly,” Greenhalgh said.
Experts say the paper ballot systems also have the virtue of being far less expensive to taxpayers. But election companies are expected to try to sell the more profitable electronic systems to the state.