— By Catherine Edgemon, Rome News Tribune, January 22, 2020 —
Walker County residents got to check out the state’s new voting machines at a demonstration on Jan. 22.
Six Georgia counties served as pilot programs who used the new machines, manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems, for the Nov. 5 elections. Joe Appio, voter education coordinator with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, said the machines were well-received in those counties, and he is conducting demonstrations around the state to familiarize communities with the new voting equipment.
The new machines are part of a national movement to make voting more secure and more easy to audit.
“Actually, we’re exceeding the recommended best practices” for protecting election integrity, Appio said.
About 20 people attended the information session, which was hosted by the Walker County Board of Elections and Registration, at the Walker County Civic Center. Appio demonstrated the new equipment and explained what has changed in the voting process.
Recent media reports claim a Georgia election server may have been hacked before the 2016 presidential election. Appio said the voting equipment is not connected to the internet.
Rather than storing selections in the voting machine’s memory as the previous machine did, the new machine will print a ballot showing the voter’s selections, he said. The 8-1/2×11-inch paper will then be inserted in a central scanner to cast the ballot; the ballot is not cast until scanned, allowing time for changes.
Elections officials may audit the system three ways: counting cast paper ballots collected in the scanner’s receptacle, checking ballot QR codes and checking the scanner’s record, he said.
Paper ballots can be reviewed, can be audited, show a correct record of votes cast and are recognized as a best practice for elections, Appio explained.
Walker County Elections Director Danielle Montgomery said paper ballots will be retained for two years.
The ballot QR code is specifically for the elections equipment and cannot be used to access any information if scanned with an iPhone, he said.
Each voting precinct will have a scanner, with the four or five largest voting precincts having two scanners, Montgomery said previously.
Voters can enlarge the text to make reading the screen easier. The voting machines also have audio ability for visually-impaired or blind voters, as well as sip-and-puff technology for those with limited mobility, to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Following the demonstration, Appio encouraged audience members to try the new machines and asked for their feedback.
The new voting machines will be used for the first time during the March 24, 2020, presidential preference primary.