State confident in timeline for delivery of new voting equipment

Cellophane-wrapped pallet by cellophane-wrapped pallet, workers rolled some 2,800 new voting machines into the DeKalb County elections warehouse on Monday.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger described it as the largest delivery to-date for the new voting system — and said he's confident every community in Georgia will be fully equipped and fully prepared for March's presidential primary.

“We’ll have every county at 100 percent capacity before the end of the first week in February,” Raffensperger said.

As recently as last month, officials had put the target date at the end of January.

The new system, run on equipment provided by Dominion Voting Systems through a $107 million state contract awarded this summer, will replace Georgia's 18-year-old electronic machines with a combination of touchscreens, printed ballots and scanners. Counties across the state must make the switch for the March 24 primary, which involves three weeks of early voting.

The holidays have slowed deliveries somewhat, but Raffensperger said Cobb County already has “virtually 100 percent” of its equipment and DeKalb will be ready after this week’s deliveries. Fulton County is scheduled to get its equipment next week and Gwinnett County the week after that, he said.

Raffensperger said that, statewide, about 70 percent of the new voting machines have been certified, a necessary step before they’re shipped to their respective jurisdictions.

Elections offices across Georgia have had voting systems to train staff for several months and have attended training events with the state. But giving poll workers and the public as much time as possible to learn the new system will be crucial.

The state conducted a test run with the much-debated new voting system in November, utilizing the Dominion machines in six counties: Bartow, Carroll, Catoosa, Decatur, Lowndes and Paulding. A total of 45 incidents were reported, including machines that rebooted in the middle of voting and problems with the tablets used to check-in voters.

State officials described the issues as “mainly human-based” and Raffensperger said runoff elections conducted a month later in two of those counties were “flawless.”

“We did learn from that and a lot of it was human error,” the secretary of state said Monday. “That’s why it gets back to training, training, training, and then training, training training. You can never do enough of it.”

In DeKalb, voters could be spending a lot of time with the new machines in 2020. A special election to fill the expired term of now-former Sheriff Jeffrey Mann will be held during March's primary and, if necessary, a runoff would be held a month later.

The election to decide DeKalb’s next full-term sheriff will then be held in May, and a runoff could follow that as well.

DeKalb County elections director Erica Hamilton said she’s confident her team will be ready. They’ll continue training ahead of March’s primary while also trying to get the public up to speed.

Hamilton said her office has already hosted a handful of community outreach events and has many more planned, including large event for the public to try out the machines on Jan. 10.

DeKalb Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson also plans to host a "voting town hall" on Feb. 5.

“I’m looking at my calendar for January and it’s loaded,” Hamilton said.