Paulding’s election supervisor will help lead a new statewide election workers organization as they learn to operate a new electronic voting system by the 2020 presidential election .
Deidre Holden will join with Athens-Clarke County elections director Charlotte Sosebee to lead the new Georgia Association of Voter Registration and Election Officials after the merger of two long-standing groups whose members were involved in conducting Georgia elections for half a century.
The two groups, the Voter Registrars Association of Georgia and the Georgia Election Officials Association, worked for years to merge after their members increasingly were assigned the same duties in recent decades, Holden said.
The new group is forming as election officials statewide begin training to operate the new $150 million system of ballot-marking devices the Georgia General Assembly approved this year.
Paulding’s elections office will use the new machines in the Dallas and Hiram municipal elections in November as part of a pilot program, Holden said.
“We are so very excited to be able to set the pace as Georgia moves to a new voting system for 2020 for our organization,” Holden said.
“Both Charlotte and I will lead this organization with the integrity and attention that the voters of this state deserve,” Holden said. “It is a great time to be serving in elections in this great state and in our great counties.”
Holden served as vice president of the 34-year-old election officials group and its rules specified she move into the president’s position through 2021. Sosebee was the incoming president of the 50-year-old voter registrars group.
“We are now serving together and will for the next two years to get the (new) organization on its feet,” Holden said.
Holden said she organized an event for Georgia Election Officials Association members to meet with legislators representing their counties in 2018. This year, the group was “instrumental” in gaining approval for the new ballot-marking system, she said.
The state’s 17-year-old electronic voting machines now used in every county feature touchscreens on which voters make choices that are recorded on a computer disc.
However, critics said the aging system was becoming harder to maintain and was susceptible to hacking.
Gov. Brian Kemp, who formerly was secretary of state, in 2018 appointed Holden as a member of a commission which recommended a voting system using ballot-marking devices.
The new system will allow voters to make their choices on electronic touchscreens attached to printers that produce paper ballots showing each voter’s choices. The voter then can review the choices before dropping the ballot into a separate scanning machine to be counted.
Holden predicted it will “give voters a lot more confidence” about the voting process.
“It’s going to be very easy to use,” she said.
Holden has served as Paulding election supervisor for 12 years and worked in the elections office for a total of 15 years.
She ascended to the position of president of the Georgia Election Officials Association after rising through the leadership ranks for the past decade, she said.
Her organization and the separate voter registrar group worked with UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute on annual training and certification of members as required in state law, Holden said.
It also advocated for legislation it supported, such as the purchase of a new voting machine system this year.
The separate groups originated under Georgia’s formerly prevalent elections system which included Probate Court judges and a board overseeing and certifying elections and a separate board overseeing voter registrations.
However, state law allowed counties to choose to combine the two boards into one elections board which could certify elections under one supervisor of elections and voter registration. Many did so in recent decades and only 36 counties’ elections now are certified by the Probate Court judge, Holden said.
“With so many counties going to combined boards and elections no longer being conducted by the Probate judge, our organizations basically now have the same duties,” she said.
The two organizations last week met together in Jekyll Island and both voted unanimously to merge, she said.