“If we get a phone call at 7:30 in the morning on Election Day (from a local elections office) where the election management system is not responding, it’s not booting up to where they would be able to tally results that night, we can have an individual with a backup server in their car headed to that jurisdiction within about 30 minutes,” Barnes said.
In emergencies, the center can also print ballots if necessary – not enough for every voter in the state, but enough to make sure the correct absentee ballots get mailed out if last-minute changes temporarily upend a county’s regular timeline.
Both Barnes and Merle King, the center’s executive director, say the center’s institutional knowledge – it’s worked with three secretaries of state, both Democrat and Republican – is crucial.
Georgia has a uniform voting system, meaning every county uses the same equipment and procedures to ensure equitable access to voting for every eligible resident – no matter where they live or how rich or poor their county is.
“We’ve been asked by other states, would you consider doing these services for us?” King said. “And we’ve said no. It wouldn’t make us better at the job we do here.”