Bill to replace Georgia voting machines introduced

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

A broad elections bill introduced Thursday would replace Georgia’s electronic voting system with touchscreens that print ballots before they’re counted.

The printed ballots would create a paper trail to check the accuracy of election results. Georgia's current direct-recording electronic voting machines lack a paper backup.

The legislation, House Bill 316, follows the recommendations of a voting commission created by Gov. Brian Kemp last year when he was secretary of state. The commission favored the touchscreens, called ballot-marking devices, over paper ballots filled out with a pen or pencil.

Election integrity advocates and cybersecurity experts say paper ballots filled out by hand are more secure from potential tampering because they don't rely on computers to print them correctly.

But supporters of ballot-marking devices, including many of Georgia's election officials, say they're easier to use and more likely to accurately record votes because they help avoid human errors. Ballot-marking devices print ballots that are then counted by optical scanning machines.

Georgia is one of four states nationwide that relies entirely on electronic voting machines that lack a verifiable paper ballot.

House Judiciary Chairman Barry Fleming, the co-chairman of Kemp's voting commission who sponsored the bill, said he wants a trustworthy voting system that records votes both electronically and on paper to ensure results are correct.

Kemp's proposed budget includes $150 million to buy a new statewide voting system, which is the estimated cost of ballot-marking devices.

The legislation introduced Thursday also calls for audits of election results.