Catoosa voter testing new machines

With new voting machines this year, after filling out a ballot on a touch screen, Georgia voters will get a paper copy of their ballot from a printer next to the screen and insert it into a scanner to have their votes recorded.

Voters who cast ballots in the first few days of the advance voting period generally had a “positive experience” using new machines the state government was testing in Bartow County in this year’s municipal elections, elections officials said.

Voters began making their choices Oct. 14 during the three-week advance voting period in municipal elections in the cities of Cartersville, Emerson, Euharlee and White before Election Day Nov. 5.

The county has a contract with each city to conduct their elections, said assistant election supervisor Cheryl Billard of Bartow County Elections and Voter Registration.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office is testing the new Dominion Voting Systems machines in Bartow and five other counties this year before using them statewide in Georgia’s Presidential Preference Primary in March 2020.

The machines feature a ballot-marking device into which voters insert a “smartcard.” They then make their choices on a touch screen tablet, review them on the screen, print a paper ballot and place it into an optical scanner for counting.

The paper ballots are used for verifying and auditing results, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

Billard said Bartow elections office staff members generally had not needed to assist voters with the new machines “once they understand the basic premise.”

“The only thing that’s really different is that they now get a printed ballot that they then scan,” Billard said. “But, as far as the touch screen, it’s so similar that they seem to be very happy with it.”

Election Supervisor Joseph Kirk said voters he saw using the new machines appear “to understand the new system intuitively.”

“The only thing we have to remind them of is to remove the voter card from the ballot marking device,” Kirk said.

Advance voting in each city’s election is scheduled for only the county elections office at 1300 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cartersville on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday, Oct. 25.

Between Oct. 28 and Nov. 1, advance voting also will be offered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Cartersville Civic Center at 435 W. Main St. for the city of Cartersville’s election, and at Emerson City Hall at 700 Hwy. 293 for the city of Emerson’s election. Times will be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the elections office and Euharlee City Hall at 30 Burge's Mill Road for the city of Euharlee’s election, Kirk said.

The city of White chose not to have an advance voting location other than the elections office all three weeks, Kirk said.

No voting will be done Nov. 2 to 4 before the final day of voting on Election Day Nov. 5 in voters’ assigned precinct locations within each city.

Billard noted only 19 voters from the four cities had traveled to the elections office at 1300 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cartersville to use the machines in the first two days of advance voting.

“But it was universally a positive experience for the voters,” Billard said.

She said elections officials were disappointed with the early numbers “but not surprised” because municipal elections typically feature low turnouts.

The city of Cartersville election is featuring a contested mayor’s race with incumbent Matt Santini facing 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 while incumbent council members Charles Buttrum and Ryan Evans and challenger Norman Gary Crisp qualified for two city council seats up for election this year.

Tim Abbott, incumbent Councilman David Duncan and Michael Troxell are seeking two Euharlee City Council seats on the ballot this year.

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 alcohol sales on Sundays at 11 a.m. rather than the current 12:30 p.m.

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