Georgia secretary of state observes first day of early voting in special election

— Alan Mauldin, The Albany Herald, January 6, 2020 — MOULTRIE — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was in southwest Georgia on Monday to observe the first day of early voting for a special election to fill a Georgia House seat. The new voting system and machines previously have been used in six Georgia […]
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— Alan Mauldin, The Albany Herald, January 6, 2020 —

MOULTRIE — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was in southwest Georgia on Monday to observe the first day of early voting for a special election to fill a Georgia House seat.

The new voting system and machines previously have been used in six Georgia counties in elections ahead of the statewide rollout in February.

The new machines, which provide a paper printout, will be used in all 159 counties for the first time during the March 24 presidential preference primary election.

“The first day of early voting, I wanted to make sure everything is working smoothly,” Raffensperger said during a telephone interview after he left the Colquitt County Courthouse Annex building, site of early voting in the county. “Everything is going smoothly.”

The new machines have a touchscreen, as did the aging models they’re replacing. Voters make their selections on the screen and print out a paper copy they can review to ensure they selected the candidates for which they want to cast ballots.

“We (also) can do physical recounts and they can do audits,” the secretary of state said.

The first use of the machines in fall 2019 included six counties, including Decatur and Lowndes. Decatur County residents are among those voting in the House District 171 special election to replace state Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, who died in November.

The district also includes Mitchell County and a portion of Colquitt County.

The special election will be held on Jan. 28, and the winner will serve out the remaining year of Powell’s term. A runoff, if necessary, would be held on Feb. 25.

In August 2019, a federal judge ruled that Georgia’s aging voting machines could not be used beyond the fall elections due to concerns about security. Raffensperger said that the new system provides assurances of security and that his office has worked with cybersecurity experts to make sure those assurances are valid.

The new voting machines will be ready to go statewide by the spring, he said.

“By early February, every county will have 100 percent of their equipment,” he said.

Each county has models of the new machines, and elections officials are being encouraged to give demonstrations to the public on the use of the machines.

State lawmakers budgeted $150 million for the new system, which came in at a cost of less than $110 million, Raffensperger said.