The thin, long piece of paper slides slowly out the voting machine, the internal mechanism guiding it making a sound similar to a copying machine. Printed on it are choices selected during voting, tapped seconds before on an electronic screen attached to the same machine. The piece of paper, in this case a ballot, is then carried to a second machine that electronically tabulates the votes while also dropping the paper into a locked, internal box. “Every vote that’s been cast there is a hard-copy paper record that each voter validated before it was inserted, scanned and tabulated,” said Jeb S. Cameron with Election Systems and Software, a Nebraska-based voting software and election management company that will help Georgia pilot a new paper-ballot voting system in November. That touches on one of the fiercest criticisms Georgia’s current system has received: There’s currently no paper record for most ballots cast in its elections.
The test of the system, demonstrated exclusively Tuesday for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV, came as early voters in Conyers will begin Oct. 16 to use the ballots along with new electronic record, voting and tabulating machines ahead of a Nov. 7 election for mayor and two City Council seats.
If all goes as planned, it’s the first time voters — excluding absentee voters — will have cast ballots on a system with a paper component since 2008. Back then, officials attached paper spools for a local election on some of the state’s existing electronic voting machines but decided the process was too cumbersome to proceed.