Earlier this month, the ACC Board of Elections ordered staff to switch from the new Ballot Marking Device (BMD) voting machines to paper ballots. This was a controversial 3-2 vote, with Chair Jesse Evans, Willa Fambrough and new member Rocky Raffle voting in favor, and Charles Knapper and Patricia Till voting against. While some people strongly prefer paper ballots because of election security, the reasoning given by board members was instead about voters’ constitutional right to ballot privacy. Paper ballots make this easier to do; inexpensive manila folders suffice to shield voter’s choices from view, which were used in Athens over the past week. Nevertheless, the decision was controversial. The ACC GOP even circulated a petition to have Evans removed from his position. The board was advised against this action by County Attorney Judd Drake and by Director of Elections Charlotte Sosebee. In Drake’s opinion, it would be very difficult to prove that it was “impossible or impracticable” for Athens to use BMDs as required by state law. Elections in Georgia are done in a uniform manner—counties aren’t free to choose their voting method in this state.Full Article: City Dope: State Tells Athens Not to Use Paper Ballots | Flagpole Magazine | Athens, GA News, Music, Arts, Restaurants.
The Secretary of State orders Athens to resume the use of electronic voting machines, overturning last week’s order from the Athens-Clarke County Elections Board. That means no more hand-marked paper ballots for the duration of the early voting period that extends through March 20. Voters in Athens and around the state have been casting ballots since March 2 for the March 24 presidential preference primaries. Georgia’s State Election Board voted on Wednesday to punish election officials in one county for their decision not to use the state’s new voting machines for the presidential primary, and it ordered them to immediately start using the machines again. The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections voted 3-2 last week to sideline the new machines in favor of hand-marked paper ballots, citing concerns over protecting ballot secrecy when using the machines with large, bright touchscreens that sit upright. Board Chairman Jesse Evans said it was “impracticable” when using the new machines to protect ballot secrecy and allow sufficient monitoring to prevent tampering as required by state law. The State Election Board, chaired by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, unanimously ordered the county to cease and desist and to pay a fine of $2,500 for investigative costs, plus $5,000 a day until the machines are back in place.Full Article: State orders Athens to resume use of new voting machines | wgauradio.com.
Georgia: State election board requires touchscreen voting in Athens-Clarke County | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The State Election Board on Wednesday unanimously ordered Athens-Clarke County to immediately switch back to Georgia’s touchscreen voting system, a rebuke of its decision to use paper ballots filled out by hand. The board, led by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, found that voters’ right to a secret ballot can be protected on the state’s new $104 million voting system, which combines touchscreens and printers to create paper ballots.“There are reasonable concerns about ballot secrecy in some limited number of precincts,” said David Worley, a member of the State Election Board. “The reasonable way to deal with that is not to make a wholesale change.” State election officials said voter privacy can be protected by turning large, bright touchscreens so they face walls instead of voters. The Athens-Clarke County Elections Board last week rejected the touchscreens, deciding on a 3-2 vote that they exposed voters choices to their neighbors. It was the only county in the state that had attempted to use hand-marked paper ballots. More than 100 supporters of hand-marked paper ballots packed the seven-hour emergency hearing Wednesday, wearing stickers saying “Protect the Secret Ballot.”Full Article: Georgia election board requires touchscreen voting in Athens.
Georgia: Athens-Clarke County punished for ditching voting machines | Kate Brumback/Associated Press
Georgia’s State Election Board voted on Wednesday to punish election officials in one county for their decision not to use the state’s new voting machines for the presidential primary, and it ordered them to immediately start using the machines again. The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections voted 3-2 last week to sideline the new machines in favor of hand-marked paper ballots, citing concerns over protecting ballot secrecy when using the machines with large, bright touchscreens that sit upright. Board Chairman Jesse Evans said it was “impracticable” when using the new machines to protect ballot secrecy and allow sufficient monitoring to prevent tampering as required by state law. The State Election Board, chaired by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, unanimously ordered the county to cease and desist and to pay a fine of $2,500 for investigative costs, plus $5,000 a day until the machines are back in place. County elections director Charlotte Sosebee said she could have the machines back up by Thursday for a continuation of early voting. Evans said he was disappointed with the state board’s decision and that he would talk to the board and its attorneys to determine next steps.Full Article: Georgia county punished for ditching voting machines :: WRAL.com.
Georgia: Hearing to be held after county ditched new voting machines | Kate Brumnack/Associated Press
Georgia’s state election board plans to hold an emergency hearing Wednesday to discuss whether election officials in one county violated state law or election rules when they decided not to use the state’s new voting machines for the presidential primary. The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections voted 3-2 last week to sideline the new machines in favor of hand-marked paper ballots. Board Chairman Jesse Evans said the board found it “impracticable” when using the new machines to protect ballot secrecy and allow sufficient monitoring to prevent tampering as required by state law. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who chairs the State Election Board, issued a notice two days later setting the Wednesday hearing in Athens. Athens, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) east of Atlanta, is home to the University of Georgia, and surrounding Clarke County represents about 1% of the state’s active voters, according to voter numbers on the secretary of state’s website.Full Article: Hearing to be held after county ditched new voting machines | The Seattle Times.
Georgia: New Voting Machines Come With The Promise Of Trust. But Can They Deliver? | Emil Moffatt/WABE
It was one year ago when Republican state Rep. Barry Fleming kicked off two hours of debate on the floor of the state House over how Georgians would cast their votes securely, in the age of computer hacking and international election interference. “Today, in passing House Bill 316, we can put our voters first in Georgia…” Fleming began. His bill set aside $150 million to replace the old machines with new electronic touchscreens. These devices would produce a paper copy of the ballot – something that had been missing in Georgia for nearly two decades. “The paper ballot enables voters to double-check their choices before casting their ballot and allows the counties to audit election results,” Fleming said. The new machines were meant to increase trust in the system, but there are still lingering questions as to whether they will accomplish that goal. House Bill 316 became law over the objection of dozens of Democrats, many of whom preferred hand-marked paper ballots, to cut down on the technology involved in the process. In late July, Georgia awarded the contract for the new voting machines to Dominion Voting System. Rolling out the new equipment for all 159 counties would be the largest undertaking of its kind in the country. A handful of elections were used to test the new system last fall and early this year, but for the rest Georgia voters, public demonstrations were how they learned introduced to the new machines.Full Article: New Georgia Voting Machines Come With The Promise Of Trust. But Can They Deliver? | 90.1 FM WABE.
Georgia: Election board tries to stop Clarke County switch from touchscreens to hand marked paper ballots | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The State Election Board is challenging Athens-Clarke County’s decision to reject Georgia’s new statewide voting system. The state board called an emergency hearing for Wednesday on whether the Athens elections board broke several state laws when it voted 3-2 last week to switch to paper ballots filled out by hand instead of by machine. The State Election Board has the power under state law to order a $5,000 fine against Athens’ government for each violation of Georgia laws requiring a uniform statewide voting system. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is the chairman of the State Election Board. The Athens election board abandoned the state’s new voting touchscreens because of concerns that the large, brightly lit screens allow people to see voters’ choices from 30 feet away. The board cited state laws that allow for paper ballots when use of voting equipment is “impossible or impracticable.”
The state election board is challenging a decision in Athens to set aside the state’s new voting system in favor of hand-marked paper ballots. The state board posted its intention to meet in Athens Wednesday, March 11 to get an explanation from local election board members who dumped the state’s new voting system and began allowing early voters to cast hand-marked paper ballots. The board withdrew the large, bright electronic ballot-marking devices Tuesday, following concerns about whether voters’ ballots were sufficiently concealed from people inside the precinct. The state election board, posting a meeting notice on the Secretary of State’s website, cited four Georgia laws that the local board may have violated by withdrawing the voting machines. The election board is chaired by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who selected the Dominion voting system amid a flurry of sometimes-partisan controversy over whether the electronic system was susceptible to hacking. Critics of the selection contended hand-marked paper ballots were the only way to avoid electronic election hacking. The state bought 33,000 of the machines last year, at a cost of more than $100 million. The state delivered the last of them to Georgia’s 159 counties Feb. 14.Full Article: Georgia elections: Athens broke law by pulling machines, SOS says | 11alive.com.
Georgia: Lawyer warned Georgia county on dumping new voting system | Kate Brumback and Russ Bynum/Associated Press
A Georgia county has opted to ditch the state’s new voting machines and switch to hand-marked paper ballots during early voting for the March presidential primary, despite a warning from the county’s attorney that the decision could result in litigation that’s tough to defend in court. The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections voted 3-2 on Tuesday to mothball the new machines after less than two days of using them in early voting ahead of Georgia’s presidential primaries. The board ordered poll workers to switch to paper ballots marked by hand starting Wednesday. Board Chairman Jesse Evans said concerns that bystanders at the polls could see the choices voters made on the new system’s touchscreens rendered it impossible to guarantee ballot secrecy. The March 24 presidential primaries mark the first statewide test for Georgia’s new $103 million voting system, which combines electronic touchscreens with printed ballots to provide a paper record of the vote. Some election integrity advocates have argued the bright touchscreens with their large fonts make it easy to see how other people are voting.Full Article: Lawyer warned Georgia county on dumping new voting system.
Georgia: State Election Board Investigating Athens-Clarke’s Decision To Use Hand-Marked Paper Ballots | Stephen Fowler/Georgia Public Broadcasting
The Georgia State Election Board is holding an emergency hearing in Athens next week to determine whether Athens-Clarke County is violating several state laws by not conducting elections on the state’s new $104 million voting system. According to a notice sent to the county board of elections, Athens-Clarke officials should be prepared to present evidence explaining why it voted 3-2 to determine that it would be “impossible and impracticable” to use the ballot-marking devices. Athens-Clarke officials have moved to paper ballots instead. The secretary of state’s office says it is investigation whether there are violations of at least six different state laws and rules regarding elections, including OCGA §§ 21-2-300, 21-2-265, 21-2-266, 21-2-267 and State Election Board Rules 183-1-12-.01 and 183-1-14-.02. One of the laws mentioned mandates that every county use the same voting system, which Athens-Clarke is not following after the board cited a different state law that says an election may be conducted by hand-marked paper ballot if the use of the machines “is impossible or impracticable.”Full Article: State Election Board Investigating Athens-Clarke’s Decision To Use Hand-Marked Paper Ballots | Georgia Public Broadcasting.
The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections voted Tuesday night to reject the state’s new voting machine system. The board voted 3-2 to use hand-marked paper ballots instead for the duration of the presidential preference primary. Georgia rolled out its new computerized ballot-marking devices for the first time statewide when early voting in the primary began Monday. Voters in Clarke County used them Monday and Tuesday. But the board “found it impracticable to … protect absolute ballot secrecy while allowing sufficient monitoring” of the computerized voting system in Athens’ early voting site, according to a statement issued by elections board chairman Jesse Evans. 11Alive News heard similar complaints during a visit to a south Georgia special election in February. Voters said the large, bright and upright computer touchpads were visible to other people and poll workers inside precincts. Election officials told us the devices were difficult to position inside polling places in such a way that also assured that poll workers could monitor voter activity according to state law. That’s required in order to deter tampering with the machines.Full Article: Clarke County says no to Georgia's new voting machines | 11alive.com.
Georgia: Election officials approve computer recounts of paper ballots | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The State Election Board voted unanimously Friday to conduct recounts of Georgia’s new paper ballots with scanning machines instead of people. The board approved an elections rule that requires recounts to rely on bar codes, despite opposition from protesters who lined the walls of the meeting room. The protesters held signs calling for paper ballots filled out by hand instead of Georgia’s new hybrid voting system, which combines touchscreens and printed-out paper ballots. The board’s decision means that until statewide audits of election results begin in November, the readable text on ballots won’t be counted. Votes will be tabulated based on QR codes printed on paper ballots. Election integrity advocacy groups had argued that recounts by hand were necessary to ensure accuracy of vote counts. A hand count would check whether the printed text that voters see matches the bar codes. But election officials said computer scans of bar codes are more accurate than hand counts, and audits will help catch errors.
Illinois: Election officials are touting sleek new voting machines for the Illinois primary. With early voting underway, are they more secure than old-fashioned paper ballots? | Elyssa Cherney/Chicago Tribune
When Rudy Altergott dropped by an early voting location in Chicago, he encountered technology he hadn’t seen before: a touch-screen device that allowed him to make his selections for the presidential primary with a tap of the finger. The machine printed a receipt that included a QR code — a type of bar code that contains a digital summary of Altergott’s ballot — and a written list of the candidates he chose, including the races he left blank. After he reviewed the paper slip, he fed it into a scanner to store the results. “I thought it was a little bit more user-friendly,” said Altergott, 29, who lives in the Gold Coast neighborhood. “I felt more comfortable with it, and I felt like it was easier to use and more pragmatic.” As election authorities in Chicago and Cook County unveil the new touch screens ahead of the March 17 primary election, polling locations are becoming more high-tech than ever before. The costly equipment was rolled out to combat the risk of election interference and to make voting more accessible for those who have difficulty filling out a ballot by hand.Full Article: Election officials are touting sleek new voting machines for the Illinois primary. With early voting underway, are they more secure than old-fashioned paper ballots? - Chicago Tribune.
Georgia: Judge rules ballot secrecy can be protected on Georgia voting screens | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A South Georgia judge ruled Wednesday that elections can move forward on Georgia’s new voting computers, deciding against plaintiffs who said the large touchscreens failed to keep ballots secret. The ruling clears the way for voters to cast their ballots on the touchscreen-and-printer voting system when early voting for the presidential primary begins Monday.Sumter County Superior Court Chief Judge R. Rucker Smith denied an emergency motion to require paper ballots filled out by hand instead of by computer.Smith’s decision is a victory for election officials who argued that voter privacy can be protected by turning touchscreens around so that they face precinct walls instead of voters waiting in line.“You can protect the right of the secret ballot while using the ballot marking devices,” said Bryan Tyson, an attorney for the Sumter County elections board. “There’s no delay with the system. The judge got it right.” The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, led by the Coalition for Good Governance, said election officials must find a way to obey the Georgia Constitution’s requirement for a secret ballot.Full Article: Judge rules ballot secrecy can be protected on Ga. voting screens.
Georgia: Lawsuit filed over voter privacy on touchscreens | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A lawsuit filed Monday alleges that Georgia’s new voting computers fail to protect voters’ right to a secret ballot, exposing their choices on brightly lit screens. The lawsuit asks a Sumter County judge to require paper ballots filled out by hand instead of the 21.5-inch touchscreens during next week’s runoff election for a state Senate seat. Georgia election officials said the lawsuit is frivolous and that concerns about voter privacy can be addressed by repositioning touchscreens so they face walls instead of voters. The complaint opens a new front in the ongoing legal fight over Georgia’s $104 million voting system, which combines touchscreens, printers and ballot scanners. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit say only hand-marked paper ballots can protect election security and voter secrecy.Full Article: Georgia lawsuit filed over voter privacy on touchscreens.
National: Reliability of pricey new ballot marking devices questioned | Frank Bajak/Associated Press
In the rush to replace insecure, unreliable electronic voting machines after Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, state and local officials have scrambled to acquire more trustworthy equipment for this year’s election, when U.S. intelligence agencies fear even worse problems. But instead of choosing simple, hand-marked paper ballots that are most resistant to tampering because paper cannot be hacked, many are opting for pricier technology that computer security experts consider almost as risky as earlier discredited electronic systems. Called ballot-marking devices, the machines have touchscreens for registering voter choice. Unlike touchscreen-only machines, they print out paper records that are scanned by optical readers. South Carolina voters will use them in Saturday’s primary. The most pricey solution available, they are at least twice as expensive as the hand-marked paper ballot option. They have been vigorously promoted by the three voting equipment vendors that control 88 percent of the U.S. market.Full Article: Reliability of pricey new voting machines questioned - Portland Press Herald.
Illinois: Citizen Group Questions QR Codes for Voting Audits | Mary Schuermann Kuhlman/Public News Service
Early voting for the March 17 primary is now under way for some Illinoisans, but a citizens group contends voters should wait until Election Day to cast a ballot. Chicago Board of Elections’ new Loop Super Site opened on Wednesday, and features new touch screen voting machines and ballot scanners. Dr. Lora Chamberlain is on the board of the group Clean Count Cook County, which maintains the ballot marking devices have significant flaws. “They print a QR code on the ballot and that’s what’s counted,” she explains. “Not the choices written out, but the QR code. “And there’s no smart app, there’s no machine, it’s proprietary. So the voters can never actually know what’s being counted off their ballot.” The machines print a paper record of the voter’s selections, but Chamberlain notes it doesn’t show races the voter might have missed on the ballot.Full Article: Citizen Group Questions QR Codes for Voting Audits / Public News Service.
Illinois: Chicago gets new ‘giant iPad’-style electronic voting machines | Ella Lee/Chicago Sun-Times
New electronic voting machines were rolled out in Chicago this week — just in time for early voting for next month’s primary elections. The machines are touch-screen, like a “giant iPad” and capture an electronic scan of the voter’s ballot before printing, according to Jim Allen, Chicago Board of Election spokesman. “Even if those paper ballots were to be damaged, lost, destroyed or tampered with, you’d not only have the paper, but also the scanned images of all the ballots cast,” Allen said of the technological capabilities of the machines. There will be roughly 4500 new electronic machines in city-based precincts on March 17. Early voters started using the machines Wednesday at the Loop Super Site, at 191 N. Clark St. And when early voting expands to the rest of the precincts, the machines will be available at those locations as well. In addition to hiring cybersecurity expert and working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, the $22 million upgrade is another effort by the election board to improve security since Russian hackers tapped Illinois’ voter registration system in 2016.Full Article: Illinois elections: Chicago gets new ‘giant iPad’-style electronic voting machines - Chicago Sun-Times.
Georgia: Election Security Scandals in Georgia Heighten 2020 Concerns | Lucas Ropek/Government Technology
In 2016, a vulnerability was discovered in Georgia’s election system that exposed the information of some 6.7 million voters and would’ve given a hacker the ability to manipulate or delete any information within voting machines across the state, according to people familiar with the discovery. While the state has since taken steps to patch the holes, activists are still concerned that the state’s subpar election security practices will endanger the results of the 2020 presidential race. Marilyn Marks, executive director of the advocacy group Coalition for Good Governance, said that while Georgia has corrected some mistakes, it still hasn’t addressed its fundamental weaknesses. The group, which is currently engaged in one of several election-related lawsuits against the state, released a statement this week alleging that the state’s presidential primary was “at risk of failure.” With a highly contentious election looming and heightened concerns about foreign interference, the question remains: has Georgia done what it takes to protect voters and the democratic process?Full Article: Election Security Scandals in Georgia Heighten 2020 Concerns.
For Stephens County, that cost just increased by $30,500, as county commissioners, at the Feb. 11 regular meeting, unanimously approved the expenditure in order to rewire the Stephens County Senior Center – the county’s sole polling location – so that it is able to handle the electrical draw of the state-mandated new voting machinery. “We have to rewire the Senior Center to handle the amps needed by the new voting equipment. This is a problem all over the State of Georgia, I know of another county that had to spend $68,000 on rewiring. Everyone is having the same problem, and we’ve been jumping through hoops to resolve it,” County Administrator Phyllis Ayers told ConnectLocal.News Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 11. A part of the reason the new voting system has a higher electrical draw than the old system is that there are now several components, instead of the single-machine system previously in use. “You’ve got more machines that need to be plugged in. You’ve got your voting machines, the printers, the scanners, and you’ve got the cyber-power battery packs,” Ayers said. “If my Buildings and Grounds Director had not been here, unloading the equipment, and could see what the amps were – and he was calculating it up in his head as he was going by and he come down here and said ‘where’s the power coming from?’” The $30,500 bid to complete the rewiring of the Senior Center, submitted by local electrical contractor Henry Hayes, will be paid out of contingency funds, along with funding for pouring a concrete pad to hold the generator used to power the equipment and a few other minor related expenditures. “There is a grant where the state will consider reimbursing you back those expenses,” she said. “So we’re trying to keep up with that, and will apply for the grant.”Full Article: The power to vote – literally – carries a cost