3/29/18 - Atlanta - House members toss papers in the air as Sine Die was proclaimed shortly after midnight. Thursday was the 40th and final day of the 2018 General Assembly. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

Bill to replace Georgia’s electronic voting machines falls short

A proposal to replace Georgia’s electronic voting machines failed to pass the state Legislature on Thursday amid deep disagreements over how to safeguard elections.

The measure, Senate Bill 403, died at midnight, the end of this year’s legislative session. The House had approved an amended version of the bill earlier Thursday, but the Senate rejected those changes.

Georgia is one of the last five states to rely entirely on electronic voting machines that don’t leave an independent paper backup. Roughly 70 percent of the country uses paper ballots.

While many legislators wanted to replace Georgia’s hackable electronic voting machines with a system that uses paper ballots, they couldn’t agree on how to do so.

Several election integrity groups pressured lawmakers to reject the legislation because it allowed the possibility of voting machines that mark ballots with bar codes for computer tabulation. They said bar codes would have left the state’s elections vulnerable.

They preferred a voting system in which voters make their choices by filling in bubbles on paper ballots, saying reducing the influence of technology would help secure elections.

But lawmakers supporting the bill said they didn’t want to limit the state’s options as it evaluated a new voting system.

Lawmakers also didn’t pass a separate bill that would have curtailed voting hours.

That measure, Senate Bill 363, would have restricted early voting to only one Sunday before an election and forced polls in city of Atlanta elections to close an hour earlier, at 7 p.m. like the rest of the state.

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