Ballots offering numerous contested elections and referendums helped convince the Secretary of State’s office to choose Bartow and Paulding counties to help test the state’s new paper-based voting system in November.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office confirmed recently that neighboring Bartow and Paulding counties will be among six test sites for the new equipment as Georgia prepares for its statewide 2020 Presidential Preference Primary in March.
Raffensperger announced in late July that Dominion Voting Systems would provide Georgia’s new $107 million system.
Bartow Elections Supervisor Joseph Kirk and Paulding Elections Supervisor Deidre Holden agreed they were “very excited” their counties will be test sites for the new Dominion machines.
“We are honored,” Holden said, in reference to her office.
Spokeswoman Tess Hammock said the Secretary of State’s office chose the counties based on such factors as population and having contested elections on their Nov. 5 ballots.
Other counties include Carroll in west Georgia, Catoosa in north Georgia, and Decatur and Lowndes counties in south Georgia.
Hammock said she did not have a definite date for delivery of the machines to the counties “but it will be soon.” The Secretary of State’s office and Dominion then will work to train the county election officials to operate the new system, she said.
Holden said she believed one reason for Paulding’s selection was “we will have more exposure to the voters in a countywide (election) and they can provide feedback as to the new system.”
Paulding’s ballot on Nov. 5 will include a countywide referendum on continuation of the 1% Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for education, also known as ESPLOST; and municipal elections for the cities of Dallas and Hiram featuring contested races for mayor and city council seats.
Paulding is “the largest county in the pilot” program which will give the system more chances to be tested, Holden said.
The county’s elections office staff is “hoping to use this opportunity to get the voters of Paulding County prepared to vote on the new system as we head into the Presidential Preference Primary in March,” Holden said.
“The State Elections Division knows that we put everything we have into the electoral process in Paulding County,” she said.
“We strive to accommodate all of the voters in our county and always conduct the elections with the utmost integrity,” Holden said. “I would hope that this also helped the State Election Division in determining their selection in choosing Paulding County to be a pilot county.”
Kirk said he believes Bartow was selected because it was a “nice, mid-sized county” that is featuring “guaranteed elections” his office is conducting for mayor and city council seats and the Georgia “Brunch Bill” in Cartersville, Emerson, Euharlee and White.
Kirk said he also plans to work to raise awareness about the new voting systems during events he plans to organize, like a town hall meeting; and community events like the upcoming fall festival in Kingston.
He also wants to have a working machine on display at the elections office at 1300 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cartersville.
The city of Cartersville election will feature a contested mayor’s election pitting incumbent Matt Santini against challengers Nicole Pavey Butler and Barbara Jackson.
In White, Incumbent Mayor Kim Dupree Billue will face a challenge from former city police chief David King.
Incumbent council members Charles Buttrum and Ryan Evans and challenger Norman Gary Crisp qualified for the two White City Council seats up for election this year.
Tim Abbott, incumbent Councilman David Duncan and Michael Troxell are seeking two Euharlee City Council seats.
The top two vote-getters Nov. 5 will win the Euharlee and White council seats.
Bartow County elections office also is conducting referendums in Cartersville and Emerson on the Georgia Brunch Bill, which allows restaurants in each city to begin Sunday alcohol sales at 11 a.m. rather than the current 12:30 p.m., Kirk said.
A formerly contested Emerson City Council race became uncontested after Corey Sanford recently withdrew and allowing the city to forego holding an election in which the winner of two open council seats is known to be remaining candidates Charles Lowry and Vincent Wiley.
Paulding’s ESPLOST referendum is for Paulding voters to decide to keep the sales tax in place from 2021 through 2026 for county school system construction projects and bond payments..
Dallas’s two contested races for spots on the city council include Brian Hardin challenging incumbent Councilman Larry James Kelly Jr. for the council’s At-Large seat in the general election; and Councilwoman Leah Kirby Alls and challenger Ryan Ayers in a special election for the Ward 3 council seat to which the council appointed Alls earlier this year.
Hiram will have a contested race for an open seat for mayor between Daniel Blount Jr. and Councilman Frank Moran.
They are seeking to replace Teresa Philyaw, who qualified for Moran’s Post 1 city council seat rather than re-election as mayor.