Connect with us

Georgia Opinions

COLUMN: Counties Must Act to Ensure Election Integrity

OPINION PIECE: Liz Throop talks about what counties need to do as Georgians prepare to flock to the polls in record numbers in 2020 and touches on how counties face many challenges to get the new voting system working.

The following article reflects the opinion of the author and not those of AllOnGeorgia.

Liz Throop, a retired Georgia State University professor, spent over 30 hours in 3 counties observing pilot elections of the new voting system in Fall 2019 – including early voting, Election Day, and runoff elections. She also spent time testifying during the Georgia SAFE Commission meetings, speaking to voters and observing equipment performance, and commenting during legislative hearings concerning House Bill 316 – the 2019 bill that stipulated the state purchase the incoming election equipment.

Georgians will flock to the polls in record numbers in 2020, and counties face many 
challenges to get the new voting system working. The State promised delivery in December: now they say the equipment, including over 30,000 touchscreen 
machines, 30,000 laser printers, 7,700 electronic poll books, and 3,500 scanners, 
should all arrive by early February. Counties need these devices to prepare for 
elections because early voting for the March 24th presidential primary begins March 
Six counties piloted the new system during Fall 2019 elections. Problems included 
electronic poll books that could not generate ballot access cards; touchscreenthat 
cycled on and off; and jammed printers and scanners. The vendor tried to reset 
digital lists of voters using a Wi-Fi connection, but had to reset some equipment in 
person. A paper back up of the poll book, long requested by critics, could have solved 
the problem.  
Poll workers have very little time to learn how to debug voter lists, reboot 
touchscreens, and unjam scanners.  
The large, upright touchscreens compromise ballot secrecy, because people can view 
voter choices from 20 feet away. The Georgia Constitution guarantees voters a secret 
ballot, and it is counties who must somehow ensure that voter secrecy is protected. 
Counties will see steep increases in the amount of storage space, testing, 
transporting, and set-up needed for the system. Some counties need to upgrade 
electrical systems in polling places, or even relocate where infrastructure can’t meet 
requirements. Fulton County is spending between $2.2 and $2.7 million on carriers 
to securely store and transport voting machines – and more poll workers will be 
needed to implement all of it. 
In 2018, some Georgia polling places had wait times of three hours or longer. During 
pilots, new devices were observed shutting down with poll workers unable to 
restart them. Equipment failures could increase wait times and cause people to leave 
without voting. Equipment shortages in some areas of a county could affect election 
turnout by slowing voting and lengthening lines.  
These are not unsolvable problems, but the State needs to know they are issues of 
grave public concern. County officials could use their local authority to move to a 
back-up plan if the new system becomes impracticable. 
Last year, a federal judge ruled that the State must provide a contingency plan for 
their new system, and they should be ready to enact itIf the new system isn’t ready 
by March, hand-marked paper ballots can be implemented to address concerns 
about privacy, security, machine shortages, and insufficient poll worker training.  
The Court also told the State it needed to make paper lists of voters available in case electronic poll books were not functional. Counties must be able to use those paper lists to resolve voter registration discrepancies between electronic poll books and data on the state’s public “My Voter Page” ( 
County officials need to step up to protect our constitutional right to vote and to a 
secret ballot. 

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *