Georgians wait in line to cast ballots. AJC file photo
Photo: AJC file photo
Photo: AJC file photo

Abrams’ group targets bill to switch voting machines

The group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams launched a campaign Monday to defeat a Republican-backed voting overhaul, starting with a wave of televised ads warning that ballot access “could get worse” if it passes.

Fair Fight Action said Monday it will lean on the network of supporters it cultivated through Abrams’ campaign to encourage lawmakers to oppose the bill, which cleared a key committee last week and could face a vote in the Georgia House this week. 

"With so much at stake, our supporters across Georgia are fighting back against this horrible bill,” said Fair Fight chief executive Lauren Groh-Wargo, who was Abrams’ campaign manager. 

That will kick off with a TV ad in the Atlanta market that contends the bill’s plan to switch Georgia’s voting system to computer-printed paper ballots – rather than hand-marked ballots Abrams and other allies support – will make Georgia’s elections less secure. 

“Those faulty machines – the ones that could get hacked to steal our vote – Governor Kemp wants to spend $150 million of our taxpayer dollars to spend more,” said the ad, which invokes Kemp’s hire of an election company’s former lobbyist to a prominent role on his staff

“Security experts and voters prefer hand-marked paper ballots. Call Governor Kemp. Tell him Georgia wants to see our vote on paper.” 

Fair Fight, which Abrams started shortly after she was defeated by Kemp, also plans a social media blitz, radio ads and other events at the state Capitol. 

That includes a Monday meeting of the Voting Rights Caucus – a group helmed by state Rep. Carolyn Hugley, a former Abrams deputy – featuring cybersecurity experts who are critical of the measure. 

State lawmakers face pressure from voters and federal courts after an election marred by voting problems, including long lines at polling places and legal fights over the counting of absentee and provisional ballots. 

The measure would give voters more time before their registrations are canceled, prevent changes in polling places 60 days before an election and prohibit officials from rejecting absentee ballots solely because of inconsistencies in voter signatures.

The biggest change, however, involves the replacement of Georgia’s 27,000 electronic voting machines. Cybersecurity experts say Georgia’s 17-year-old electronic voting machines could be hacked, with wrongdoers leaving no trace that they had rigged the election. 

Republicans, including Kemp, back a touchscreen system with the added component of paper ballot printers. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Barry Fleming, said the legislation strengthens democracy and increases confidence in election results.

Democratic lawmakers largely oppose the measure, House Bill 316, saying paper ballots bubbled in with a pen would be safer from tampering. Many say they trust tech experts who say switching Georgia to another computerized election system would be a mistake.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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