A panel formed by Gov.-elect Brian Kemp voted Thursday to replace Georgia’s electronic voting machines with a computerized system that prints paper ballots, despite opposition from a crowd of voters who said paper ballots filled out by hand are more secure and less expensive. The endorsement of ballot printers over hand-marked paper ballots will carry weight with the Georgia General Assembly when it considers buying a new statewide voting system during this year’s legislative session, which begins Monday. The Secure, Accessible & Fair Elections (SAFE) Commission voted 13-3 to recommend a voting system with touchscreens and printers, called ballot-marking devices, that would cost taxpayers well over $100 million. A system using paper ballots bubbled in with a pen would cost around $30 million. The vote came the same week Kemp announced he was hiring former state Rep. Chuck Harper, a lobbyist for the state’s current election vendor, Election Systems & Software, as his deputy chief of staff. The company sells the same kind of voting system that the commission recommended. … Except for election officials and lobbyists, every voter who made public comments Thursday supported hand-marked paper ballots. County election supervisors backed ballot-marking devices, saying they’re similar to the touchscreens that voters are accustomed to.
Voters told the SAFE Commission that ballot-marking devices wouldn’t be much of an improvement over the state’s current voting machines. Ballot-marking devices could still be hacked, they said, and paper printouts don’t reflect voters’ choices as well as hand-marked ballots.
“Why don’t you pick the most trustworthy and economic voting system: hand-marked paper ballots?” asked Jacqueline Elsner, an Athens-Clarke County voter.
But members of the commission said ballot-marking devices will produce a paper record that can be used for audits and recounts, helping ensure election integrity.