Error discovered on Georgia touchscreens in US Senate race

Georgia’s new voting machines by Dominion Voting Systems were demonstrated at the Secretary of State’s Office on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019. Voters will make their choices on touchscreens, which are connected to computers that will print out paper ballots for tabulation. Photo credit: Georgia Secretary of State

Election officials working to correct issue before early voting begins Oct. 12

Georgia election officials said Saturday they found a programming error on the state’s voting touchscreens that caused a column of candidates in the 21-person U.S. Senate special election to disappear at times when flipping back and forth between screens.

The problem will require reprogramming the state’s 30,000 new touchscreens, called ballot-marking devices, about two weeks before in-person early voting begins Oct. 12.

The issue occurred in the U.S. Senate special election, which includes Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, along with Democrats Raphael Warnock, Matt Lieberman and Ed Tarver.

To fit so many candidates on one screen, election officials had to divide the race into two columns, said Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs. She said that kind of ballot format isn’t standard, but it was easier for voters, and election officials wanted to ensure all candidates appeared together.

“Logic and accuracy testing discovered an issue where if a user flips back and forth multiple times between the Senate special election and the previous race (which is not typical), the second column would, in rare occasions, not appear,” Fuchs said. “This was discovered as it should have been during L&A testing.”

The issue would have affected candidates sorted alphabetically in the second column such as Lieberman, Loeffler, Tarver and Warnock.

Elections Director Chris Harvey sent a memo to county election officials Friday asking them to stop logic and accuracy testing until the secretary of state’s office provides a new database in the coming days.

“I know that everyone is working as hard as they can to be prepared. We will do everything we can to minimize the delay this will cause,” Harvey wrote.

Georgia is rolling out a new statewide voting system this year that combines touchscreens with paper ballots. In-person voters will make their choices on touchscreens, which then print ballots that will be inserted into optical scanners.

The programming problem doesn’t affect absentee ballots. About 1.3 million Georgia voters had requested absentee ballots through Friday, and nearly 36,000 ballots had been returned so far.

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