Georgia lawmakers are preparing to ditch the state’s old and vulnerable electronic voting machines, but they haven’t fully committed to paper ballots that can’t be hacked. A bill to to replace all of Georgia’s 27,000 voting machines in time for the 2020 presidential election cleared the state Senate last week and is now pending in the House. Organizations seeking secure elections say they’re worried that Georgia could end up with an untrustworthy and expensive election system. The legislation has raised some concerns, including the lack of a requirement that manual recounts be conducted with paper ballots and the possibility that bar codes could be printed on the ballots. “Electronics make life easier, but they also can be manipulated,” said Sara Henderson, the executive director of Common Cause Georgia, a government accountability group. “We’re trying to get changes into the bill that will make paper the official ballot of record. “If we don’t have that language in there, we’ll have the same situation as we have now,” she said.
… Old-fashioned paper ballots could cost $35 million or more, while a touch screen-and-paper voting system could run well over $100 million. It’s unclear whether legislative leaders are committed to paying for a new voting system next year.
The bill would allow election officials to decide whether to conduct manual recounts, even in very close elections. Without a recount by hand, recounts would use the same vote-counting machines that produced the initial result.
“By permitting the recounts to be done by the machine, you get no benefit of putting it on paper,” said Susan Greenhalgh of the National Election Defense Coalition, which advocates for secure and accurate elections. “The whole point of getting the paper ballot is to have an independent record of voter intent that’s not in digital form, so it can be counted to ensure the tally is correct and that it wasn’t affected by any software bug, error or cyber event.” She said hand-filled paper ballots — without touch screens, bar codes, printers or other machinery — would be the safest option.