A crucial test for the future of Georgia elections begins Monday when early voting opens across the state ahead of the Nov. 7 local and special elections. Voters in Conyers will begin casting paper ballots along with new voting and tabulating machines as they decide on a new mayor and two City Council seats. The pilot program comes as advocates have sued to force the state to dump its aging all-electronic system amid fears of hacking and security breaches. And it could pave the way for the first elections system reboot in Georgia since 2002. “Everything is still on track and we are ready to go,” said Cynthia Welch, the elections supervisor for Rockdale County, which is running the Conyers election. Welch and her team have spent the past several weeks demonstrating the system, including to other local elections officials as well as lawmakers.
Articles about voting issues in Georgia.
As a conservative state legislator in Georgia, Rep. Brian Strickland of McDonough is no tea partier. But he isn’t exactly a moderate either. During his five years representing District 111 in Henry County, Strickland voted for an anti-LGBT “religious freedom” measure, a bill allowing people to carry weapons on college campuses and federal funding for unregulated “crisis pregnancy centers” that oppose abortions. That conservative voting record wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in many of Georgia’s blood-red legislative districts. But Strickland’s agenda grew increasingly out of step with his rapidly changing constituency as more blacks, Hispanics and other minorities moved into his district as well as Henry County, a fast-growing, majority-minority exurb of Atlanta.
Georgia: Lawsuit claims Georgia House districts drawn to remove minority voters | Atlanta Journal Constitution
Voters opposed to a 2015 redistricting plan have filed a second federal lawsuit claiming Georgia illegally “gerrymandered” two state House districts by moving minority voters out of areas represented by vulnerable white Republican lawmakers. The suit, filed Tuesday by 11 residents who live in and around those districts in metro Atlanta, said that the boundary lines of the seats held by state Reps. Joyce Chandler, R-Grayson, and Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, were redrawn two years ago to increase the percentage of white voters in those districts to protect both incumbents. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who administers elections, is named as the sole defendant. A spokesman for Kemp said his office had not yet seen the suit. A spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, declined comment.
Georgia: Holder-Led Group Challenges Georgia Redistricting, Claiming Racial Bias | The New York Times
A Democratic group led by the former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. has accused the State of Georgia of flouting the Voting Rights Act, claiming that Georgia Republicans reshaped two state legislative districts to minimize the electoral influence of African-American voters. Mr. Holder’s group, the National Redistricting Foundation, is expected to file suit in Federal District Court in Atlanta on Tuesday. The complaint charges that race was the “predominant factor” in adjusting two districts — the 105th and 111th — in the Atlanta area where white lawmakers had faced spirited challenges from black Democrats. Both districts were drawn in 2015, through an unusually timed redistricting law that the lawsuit claims violated the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment.
Rockdale Elections Director Cynthia Welch recently held a demonstration showing off the new “paper” ballot voting machines that will be used in the Nov. 7 Conyers municipal elections. Rockdale is the first county in Georgia to pilot the new machines, which will provide voters with a paper ballot they can examine before casting their ballot in a tabulator machine that counts the votes. “If they’re not satisfied with their vote, they can take it to a poll worker and request a new ballot and start all over. Once they are satisfied with their selections, they can cast the ballot in the tabulator,” Welch said.
A handful of lawmakers began the discussion Friday about what it might take to move Georgia to a new election system, an important but incremental step toward replacing the state’s aging voting machines. The meeting of the state House Science and Technology Committee represents a start. Any decision will likely take a few years and, depending on the type of system officials pick, could cost more than $100 million. Cheaper options are available, but the state’s leaders all need to agree on what they want. “We all want to have a system that is best in class and does all the things technology can provide for us,” said committee Chairman Ed Setzler, R-Acworth. Beginning that conversation now, he added, means the “committee starts out of session to look at these things and to look at what technological options can serve our state well.” Georgia’s current system, considered state-of-the-art when it was adopted 15 years ago, is now universally acknowledged by experts to be vulnerable to security risks and buggy software. Only a handful of states still use similar electronic systems, which voters know for their digital touch screens. A majority — 41 states — either have or are moving toward voting done entirely on paper or on a hybrid system that incorporates some kind of paper trail.
Fifty-three allegedly forged voter applications are being referred to the state Attorney General’s Office for possible prosecution, a decision by the State Elections Board that effectively closes the Secretary of State Office’s 2014 fraud investigation involving an attention-grabbing registration drive by the New Georgia Project. The unanimous vote Wednesday came as the case’s lead investigator said he found no wrongdoing by the group, which was founded by then-state House Democratic leader Stacey Abrams to increase the number of minorities on voting rolls. It allows Attorney General Chris Carr to decide whether to prosecute those involved: 14 people that investigator Russell Lewis said essentially acted as independent contractors registering new voters.
The ACLU of Georgia is challenging Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and the secretary of state’s office over their list maintenance procedures and compliance with federal and state law. In particular, they — along with several other organizations, including the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta and the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda — are pointing out that nearly 160,000 Georgia voters who have moved within the same county have recently been threatened with being placed on “inactive” status if they did not respond within 30 days, in violation of both federal and state law.
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.
Georgia for the first time in nearly a decade will pilot the use of paper ballots this November in a local municipal election, the first step toward what officials said could be a statewide switch to a new voting system. Voters in Conyers will use the ballots along with new electronic record, voting and tabulating machines for 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.