8/30/18 - Grovetown - Hart InterCivic Verity voting machines and scanners setup for that company's presentation. Voting machine companies demonstrated their products Thursday at the second meeting of Secretary of State Brian Kemp's Secure, Accessible & Fair Elections Commission, which is evaluating whether to switch from electronic voting machines to ones that offer paper ballots for verification and auditing. Vendors present included Clear Ballot, Unisyn Voting Solutions, Smartmatic, Election Systems & Software, Hart InterCivic, and Dominion Voting. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

How electronic voting with a paper ballot would work in Georgia

Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill to replace the state’s 17-year-old electronic voting  machines with a system that combines touchscreens and computer-printed paper ballots. 

Here’s how that system would work and what cybersecurity and elections experts say. 


Voters tap a touchscreen to make their selections, similar to the state’s current voting machines.
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

 Voters tap a touchscreen to make their selections, similar to the state’s current voting machines.


The touchscreen is attached to a printer that spits out a paper ballot for voters to review their choices.
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

The touchscreen is attached to a printer that spits out a paper ballot for voters to review their choices.


Voters insert their paper ballots into optical scanning machines for tabulation.
Photo: Steve Schaefer

Voters insert their paper ballots into optical scanning machines for tabulation.


A sample ballot shows how barcodes and voter choices would be displayed using the ExpressVote system, which was tested in a Conyers election in November. The ExpressVote system combines touchscreens and paper ballots to record voters' choices. The Georgia General Assembly is considering legislation, Senate Bill 403, that would replace the state's voting system.

Cybersecurity experts and election integrity groups oppose the touchscreen-and-paper voting system, called ballot-marking devices. They say ballot-marking devices could be hacked to alter election results. Unlike ballots bubbled in with a pen, ballot-marking devices print text of voters’ choices and encode those choices into bar codes for machine tabulation. Critics of ballot-marking devices say voters wouldn’t be able to tell if the bar codes matched their printed choices.


Absentee ballot for the 2008 general election.  Robert Cauvel / AJC staff
Photo: Robert Cauvel/AJC

Georgia election officials support ballot-marking devices, saying the touchscreens are easy to use and create a paper ballot that could be used to check election results. Backers of ballot-marking devices say computer-printed ballots avoid the problems of hand-marked paper ballots, which could be invalidated by stray pen marks or human errors. Ballot-marking devices also include accessibility options to accommodate disabled voters, such as adjustable type size.

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