Georgia’s new voting machines will be tested in local elections in six counties this November before they’re rolled out statewide for the presidential primary in March.
The first areas to use the state’s voting system are Bartow and Paulding counties in metro Atlanta, Decatur and Lowndes counties near the Florida border, Carroll County near Alabama and Catoosa County near Tennessee, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s office.
The test-run covers municipal elections for mayors and city councils, as well as countywide referendums on issues such as sales taxes for education.
Voters will make their choices on touchscreens that are connected to printers to create ballots. Voters can then review their printed ballots before inserting them into optical scanners for tabulation.
The $107 million voting system will replace Georgia’s 17-year-old electronic voting machines, which lack paper ballots. Election officials plan to rely on the new printed ballots for recounts and audits.
Test sites for the voting system were chosen in areas with varying population sizes and locations that have contested elections this fall, according to the secretary of state’s office.
“It will give us a jump-start on what 2020 will be like and give us an opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t work,” said Paulding County Elections Supervisor Deidre Holden on Tuesday. “It will give voters confidence their ballot was cast for who they chose to vote for.”
Opponents of the voting system say it gives voters a false sense of security because computer-printed ballots could still be hacked, potentially altering election results. A pending lawsuit asks a federal judge to force Georgia to instead switch to paper ballots bubbled in by pen.
In addition to trial of the new voting system, voters in four cities in Cobb County will test hand-marked paper ballots in November. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg required the paper ballot test as a contingency in case the computer-printed voting system isn’t ready for statewide use in time for the presidential primary.
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