An audit by Bartow County election workers, two nationally recognized organizations and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office gave the new paper ballot voting system high marks for accuracy in the Cartersville city election.
Georgia is replacing its 17-year-old electronic voting machines with a system that produces paper ballots. Its first statewide use will be in the state’s March 24 Presidential Preference Primary.
The Secretary of State’s office selected local municipal elections in Bartow, Paulding, Carroll, Catoosa, Decatur and Lowndes counties to test the new voting system Nov. 5.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said, “An important part of the new voting system is the ability to audit with the use of paper ballots. This feature provides the confidence voters deserve,” .
A Georgia law enacted this year requires audits after state elections beginning in November 2020.
Raffensperger initiated the Nov. 12 audit to provide voter certainty going into next year’s elections and to test the audit procedures, the release stated.
Bartow was selected for the audit because of its size and proximity to Atlanta, the release stated.
The audit was done on votes cast in the Cartersville mayor election and “Brunch Bill” referendum, said Secretary of State spokesperson Walter Jones.
Experts from Verified Voting and VotingWorks, two nonpartisan national organizations with experience with election audits across the country, assisted the Secretary of State’s election staff and Bartow officials with the testing.
The audit’s public process consisted of examining a random sample of ballots.
Called a risk-limiting audit, it allowed them to check a random sample of the total ballots to “ensure the ratio of votes for each candidate is represented in the total compiled by the scanners used in tabulating ballots from early voting and Election Day” and verify the results were accurately derived, according to information from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting, said the risk-limiting audit is a “thorough, transparent and structured process that provides solid evidence in the outcome of an election.”
“We are pleased to assist Georgia in piloting risk-limiting audits and in implementing Georgia’s new voting system,” Schneider said. “We hope, through these steps, to ensure a trustworthy record for audits to bolster citizens’ confidence in the outcome of Georgia elections.”
The new machines produced by Dominion Voting System allowed voters to cast ballots by making their choices on a touch screen tablet, printing a paper copy listing their choices and a QR code, and placing the paper ballot into an optical scanner which scans it to record the vote before dropping the ballot into a locked box.
The paper ballots then are used for verifying and auditing results, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
More than 27,000 votes were cast in the six test counties Nov. 5 — roughly one out of every 10 cast statewide.
In Bartow, a total of almost 2,000 voters in four cities used the new system in mayor and city council races and referendums on allowing earlier Sunday alcoholic beverage sales.
The Secretary of State’s office also noted in a separate news release that “even the backup measures worked as designed and assured that voters made their choices securely and confidently that the count is accurate.”
Bartow election workers used backup equipment after the system’s Poll Pad terminal used to access voters’ information and create cards to access the machines malfunctioned at a few precincts Nov. 5, said county Elections Director Joseph Kirk.
Bartow County Elections Office conducted elections in the cities of Cartersville, Emerson, Euharlee and White using the new system.
A total of 1,989 cast ballots — about 11% of the 17,898 registered voters eligible to vote in the election, according to Bartow County Elections records.
Turnout ranged from 30% in White to 13% in Emerson, 11% in Cartersville and 7% in Euharlee.
The county election board was set to certify the elections Nov. 15, Kirk said.