January 14, 2020 Atlanta: Implementation Manager Gabriel Sterling discusses the state’s new voting machines while they are tested and packed in a local warehouse on Tuesday, January 20, 2020, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia voting equipment delivered before deadline for election

Trucks delivered the last shipment of voting computers Friday for Georgia’s presidential primary, meeting a deadline for equipment to be in place.

About 75,000 touchscreens, printers, ballot scanners and check-in tablets will now be tested and installed in time for in-person early voting to start March 2, followed by Election Day on March 24.

Gabriel Sterling, the implementation manager with the secretary of state’s office, said voters should feel confident that election officials are prepared for the rollout of the $104 million voting system.

“The counties have everything they need to run a successful presidential preference primary,” Sterling said. “We’ve met every mark we’ve laid out. There is no turning back.”

A worker loads voting machines onto the final truck delivering new Georgia election equipment across the state on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. All in-person voters will use the touchscreen-and-printer voting system starting with next month’s presidential primary. Photo: Georgia secretary of state’s office.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The new system combines touchscreens and printers, adding paper ballots to Georgia after 18 years of electronic voting.

Voters will choose their candidates on touchscreens, which are connected to printers that create paper ballots. Then voters can review their ballots before inserting them into optical scanners, which count ballots and deposit them into locked ballot boxes.

Election officials faced a tight timeline to deliver equipment since the state awarded its elections contract to Dominion Voting Systems in July.

A federal judge ruled in August that if the state failed to meet the delivery deadline, it would have to use hand-marked paper ballots.

Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group, predicted counties will struggle to be ready for the election.

“The secretary of state has placed counties in an extremely difficult position of administering a high turnout election under a crunched timeline and without the guidance necessary to properly implement a uniform backup plan,” said Andre Fields, political director for Fair Fight Action, during a meeting Friday of Fulton County state legislators.

Most of Georgia’s 159 counties had already received their election equipment before Friday, but six small counties remained: Bryan, Camden, Seminole, Thomas, Ware and Wayne.

In all, the secretary of state’s office sent 30,343 touchscreens to counties for use in the presidential primary. Another 1,495 touchscreens will be delivered at a later date — enough to provide one for every 225 voters, Sterling said.

Thomas County Elections Supervisor Frank Scoggins, who received about 130 touchscreens Friday, said he’s ready for the hard work of training poll workers and educating voters in the next few weeks.

“It’s going to be a bit of a challenge because nobody likes change,” Scoggins said. “We’ve got to be dedicated. Compared to the old system, once you’ve got this thing down it’s probably less work.”

Voters in 17 counties already tried the system during several local elections since November. The bigger test will come on Election Day, when voters statewide will cast their ballots on the new equipment.

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