Georgia could get rid of ballot QR codes — but not till 2026

Bill would require vote-counting from readable portion of ballots
The House Governmental Affairs Committee voted 7-5 Wednesday to stop using computer QR codes to count ballots in 2026. MARK NIESSE /

Credit: Mark Niesse

Credit: Mark Niesse

The House Governmental Affairs Committee voted 7-5 Wednesday to stop using computer QR codes to count ballots in 2026. MARK NIESSE /

It won’t happen this election year, but starting in mid-2026, Georgia elections would no longer depend on computer QR codes printed on ballots to count votes, according to a bill that passed a House committee Wednesday.

Instead, the bill calls for ballot scanning machines to read either filled-in ovals or the text to tabulate voters’ choices.

The Republican-backed proposal is an effort to ensure that vote counts accurately reflect the human-readable portion of ballots. There’s no indication that QR codes have been tabulated incorrectly, but supporters of the bill say voters can’t tell whether computer codes match their choices.

“Georgia has suffered from unverifiable voting systems for over 20 years,” said Garland Favorito, co-founder of the group VoterGA, which opposes the state’s current voting equipment. “The bottom line is that voters don’t trust this system. That’s the elephant in the room.”

With Georgia’s voting technology, manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems, in-person voters fill out their ballots on touchscreens, which are attached to printers that create a paper ballot. The ballot displays voters’ choices in text alongside a QR code that is counted by scanning machines.

Credit: Christine Tannous/AJC

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Credit: Christine Tannous/AJC

Under Senate Bill 189, ballot scanners would count votes directly from the ballot text or a machine mark, such as a computer-printed oval filled in with a voter’s choice. The text or bubbles would become the official vote rather than the QR code.

The legislation lacks the $25 million-plus in funding required for thousands of new ballot printers and election computers across the state. Lawmakers would have to appropriate that money either this year or next.

Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer for the secretary of state’s office, told representatives that removing computer codes isn’t needed, and election results are verified by manual audits.

“We believe that our system currently is secure. We believe it is one of the best systems in the United States,” Sterling said.

The requirement to abandon use of QR codes would go into effect July 1, 2026, giving legislators time to appropriate funding and allowing election officials to prepare for the change. State election officials have said it would be impossible to upgrade election software and equipment to remove QR codes in time for this year’s elections.

The House Governmental Affairs Committee approved SB 189 along party lines, 7-5. The measure could receive final votes in the full House and Senate next week.

The QR code legislation is one of nine election bills under consideration, along with proposals strengthening voter challenge laws, requiring fewer voting machines, adding more audits and criminalizing deepfake campaign video or audio that uses artificial intelligence to mimic candidates.