First test starts Monday for new paper-ballot machines in Georgia


A crucial test for the future of Georgia elections begins Monday when early voting opens across the state ahead of the Nov. 7 local and special elections.

Voters in Conyers will begin casting paper ballots along with new voting and tabulating machines as they decide on a new mayor and two City Council seats.

The pilot program comes as advocates have sued to force the state to dump its aging all-electronic system amid fears of hacking and security breaches.

And it could pave the way for the first elections system reboot in Georgia since 2002.

“Everything is still on track and we are ready to go,” said Cynthia Welch, the elections supervisor for Rockdale County, which is running the Conyers election.

Welch and her team have spent the past several weeks demonstrating the system, including to other local elections officials as well as lawmakers.

That excitement, however, is tempered by the fact that the program for now is a one-off effort meant to demonstrate how Georgia could get past its current system, which was considered state-of-the-art when it was adopted 15 years ago but is now universally acknowledged by experts to be vulnerable to security risks and buggy software.

Experts also recommend some kind of paper trail as a way to ensure accuracy of the tally. In Georgia, meanwhile, there’s currently no paper record for most ballots cast in elections.

Any decision would likely be a three- to four-year proposition for the state and, depending on the type of system officials pick, could cost more than $100 million. Cheaper options are available, but the state’s leaders all need to agree on what they want.

Early voting in Georgia

Be sure to check with your local elections office to confirm where to go cast an early ballot, since early voting locations are not the same as regular neighborhood polling places.

The municipalities are only opening select sites during the early voting period, which for many may only be the main county elections office.

Any registered voter can vote early.

Use the Secretary of State Office’s online “my voter page” website (www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do) to find a sample ballot or specific early voting location.

You can also call your local elections office to find early voting locations or look for the “advance voting info” link under the elections tab of the Secretary of State Office’s website (www.sos.ga.gov).

Don’t forget to bring photo identification, which can include a Georgia driver’s license, even if it’s expired; a state-issued voter identification card; a valid U.S. passport; or a valid U.S. military photo ID.

No “ballot selfies” are allowed at the polls, so wait to snap a photo until you’re outside. It is illegal in Georgia to take pictures of a ballot or voting equipment, but the Secretary of State Office has said it has seen voters in previous elections post “ballot selfies” on social media — something that could get you in trouble with the law.

Information about local elections and your “My Voter Page” can also be found on the free “GA SOS” app for your smartphone via iTunes or Google Play for Android.


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