The fiasco in the Iowa’s Democratic presidential caucuses is an object lesson for Georgia and other states in how not to use new technology in voting. Problems with new devices used by the Democrats caused major delays in tallying the votes, and long before the final results came in, the candidates left Iowa and moved on to the New Hampshire primary.
Is Georgia prepared for voting with its new system in the presidential preference primary March 24?
Yes, says Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger who last week reiterated his commitment to restore trust in the state’s voting system, which came under attack in recent elections. On Valentine’s Day, Raffensperger said “the final shipments of Georgia’s new secure paper-ballot system” had taken place, delivering more than 30,000 touchscreen machines to all 159 counties “on schedule in the largest rollout of voting machines in U.S. history.”
To provide a backup paper trail, each of the touchscreen machines is connected to a printer that will produce ballots showing the choices made by the voters. Another important feature, Raffensperger said, “is the ability to audit the results through hand counting batches of the ballots.” He said two public audits using different methods “have already demonstrated the accuracy and reliability of the results.” Preparing for Election Day, the new system was used in six counties in a pilot during last fall’s municipal elections and again in special elections in 12 counties within the past month. There were no major problems but “just a few human errors as would be expected with any new equipment,” Raffensperger said. “None prevented anyone from voting or delayed the results.”
The shipments included voting setups for use in training and public demonstrations, a critical component of the new system’s introduction. In Iowa, the problems for Democrats reportedly arose because of the inability of volunteers to use new apps. In contrast, the Georgia secretary of state’s staff has provided training for county election supervisors and refresher training for them to follow through with local poll workers. The rollout of equipment is impressive in terms of the numbers. In addition to 30,000 touchscreen machines and their printers, the state delivered more than 3,000 scanners and lockable ballot boxes, 7,500 poll pads for voters checking in plus cables, “uninterruptable power systems and other components” — more than 100,000 items in total.
Raffensperger pointed out that the new system, which replaces machines used since 2002, resulted from a bipartisan commission’s recommendation for a system that uses paper ballots and touchscreens, hearings held by the General Assembly and a bipartisan vote in the Legislature authorizing the purchase of the machines and appropriating $150 million for the new system. To educate voters “on ways Georgia is protecting election integrity,” Raffensperger has launched a website, SecureVoteGa.com. He says this state is a leader in election innovation and access, citing automatic voter registration through the Department of Driver Services, plus three weeks of early voting “and no-excuse absentee voting.” Georgia, he said, “is the top state in the number of motor voter registrations” and in the last election had record registrations and voter turnout.
For the Iowa Democrats, their new technology ended up in “a total mess,” as one of the candidate’s surrogates said. The Georgia secretary of state has invested a lot of effort into providing training and refresher training for county election officials to train their poll workers. Contrasting the Iowa chaos, Georgia appears to have its act together to use its new balloting system. With early voting beginning March 2, there’s no room for any serious problems. Georgia has to get this right the first time around.