Unlike most states, Georgia has a dedicated third-party certification agency at the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University. The center’s mission is to test and care for our elections system to ensure all components work properly and adhere to legal guidelines.
The center tests the system regularly. Each time a component is changed, the entire system is retested to ensure there are no unintended consequences. Additionally, before every election, the system undergoes logic and accuracy testing to ensure all ballot marking functionality is working as it should. If any abnormality is detected in a unit, that unit is pulled from use, tested further and repaired if necessary.
This past spring during a regular assessment, 98 percent of voting system components were certified in full working order. The remaining 2 percent are slated for repair or replacement.
Some people try to compare Georgia’s system to personal computers, laptops or other electronic devices that are routinely transported and used daily. This comparison is fraught with pitfalls. Think of a voting system as a car that gets driven five times a year. It’s more important to check the odometer than the registration date. Georgia’s touchscreen voting units are not even capable of being connected to the Internet. It is a completely self-contained system that ensures security in our elections.
Stability also is important. A stable, predictable system that is accurate, secure and reliable has immense value to the state. Voters know how to use it. Election officials know how to prepare and deploy it. Technicians know how to support it.
When a new system is deployed, all of that certainty and institutional knowledge is replaced by some level of risk. Newness and innovation have appeal, but good elections are less about innovation and more about reliable outcomes.
There are over 10,000 election jurisdictions in the U.S. In most states, local elections officials are left to fend for themselves, and many will no doubt find themselves struggling to field effective voting systems in the coming years.
Georgia is unique in its adoption of a uniform voting system; creation of a center to support that system; rigorous testing and certification processes; strict guidelines for storage and maintenance of voting system components, and commitment to ensuring every voter — from suburban to urban to rural — has the same opportunity to cast his or her ballot in full secrecy, knowing the vote is counted accurately and reliably.
Brian Kemp is Georgia secretary of state.