Check-in upgrades and ballot tracking money sought in Georgia budget

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Raffensperger seeks additional $9M in state budget

Upcoming elections in Georgia might include absentee ballot tracking through the mail, more accurate voter registration lists and data connections to voter check-in tablets.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asked lawmakers Wednesday for more than $9 million in new spending, much of it in preparation for next year’s elections.

“We fully expect Georgia will remain ground zero in the national spotlight,” Raffensperger told the House and Senate budget committees. “Both political parties will be having focused energies here in the state of Georgia, and we want elections in Georgia to continue to run smoothly.”

An absentee ballot tracking service would allow voters to receive notifications and check the progress of their ballot as it moves through the U.S. Postal Service. If it doesn’t look like it will arrive in time to be counted before polls close on Election Day, they can cancel their ballot and vote in person.

In addition, a geolocation service would help state and county election officials identify invalid addresses and incorrect registrations.

The combined cost of the ballot tracking service, geolocation enhancements and registration validation technology is $625,000.

To help reduce wait times at polling places, voter check-in tablets would connect to a cellphone network at a cost of $550,000 for a statewide data plan.

The tablets would streamline the check-in process by combining several steps into one, eliminating the need for voters to fill out paper forms and verifying their information at the same time that they receive activation cards for voting touchscreens. Election officials would be able to remotely monitor check-in times, slowdowns and when equipment isn’t online.

The most expensive item on Raffensperger’s list is $4 million to replace power supplies for all voting touchscreens across the state.

The new power supplies would be more portable for poll workers, weighing 30 pounds instead of current equipment that weighs 80 pounds. Raffensperger said the average poll worker in Georgia is 65 years old.

Raffensperger is also seeking funding for the State Election Board, which handles allegations of election violations and creates election regulations. He sought a combined $240,000 for two State Election Board employees, a website, a travel budget and administration costs.

Among Raffensperger’s other budget requests are $2.8 million to replace the state’s corporate registration software, $390,000 for four additional investigators and $250,000 to display digital images of scanned paper ballots.

Raffensperger’s spending requests come on top of the $29 million planned for the secretary of state’s office in Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budget.

The General Assembly must pass the state’s estimated $32.5 billion annual budget before this year’s legislative session ends March 29.