Poll worker Cathy Gray prepares the machines for voting. Voters lined up early at Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 to cast their votes. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Georgia solicits companies to replace electronic voting machines

Voting machine companies will submit proposals this month to replace Georgia’s touchscreens with hand-marked paper ballots or ballot-marking devices.

The Secretary of State’s Office posted a request for information Wednesday to review companies’ voting systems and their costs, which could range from roughly $30 million to $150 million. A competitive bidding process could begin next year.

Georgia has used electronic touchscreens since 2002, a voting system that lacks a verifiable paper backup to ensure accuracy. Election integrity advocates say electronic voting computers could be hacked.

Three voting methods are being considered, according to the request for information:

  • Paper ballots marked by hand, which voters would then feed into scanning machines for tabulation, with ballot-marking devices available as needed and for voters with disabilities. Ballot-marking devices are machines that record or print votes on paper before they’re scanned for tabulation.
  • Ballot-marking devices for all voters. 
  • In-person early voting solely on ballot-marking devices, with Election Day voting primarily conducted on paper ballots marked by hand and then scanned.

A new voting system would need to be in place in time for the spring 2020 presidential preference primary, according to the request for information.

Election companies will also submit estimated costs for hardware, software, licenses, peripherals, implementation, decommissioning, training and maintenance. Companies’ responses are due by Aug. 24.

The state’s Secure, Accessible & Fair Elections (SAFE) Commission will review voting system options and then make a recommendation to the Georgia General Assembly before the 2019 legislative session.

Georgia’s next secretary of state will be responsible for overseeing implementation of a new voting system. Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s term ends this year.

Kemp, a Republican, is running against Democrat Stacey Abrams for governor.

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