Georgia moves to add watermarks to ballots in presidential election

House votes to approve watermarks as a ‘ballot security’ feature
State Rep. John LaHood, R-Valdosta, proposed House Bill 976 to add watermarks to Georgia ballots. The House voted 167-1 on Wednesday to approve the measure. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

State Rep. John LaHood, R-Valdosta, proposed House Bill 976 to add watermarks to Georgia ballots. The House voted 167-1 on Wednesday to approve the measure. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Georgia ballots would be printed with a watermark for this year’s presidential election under a bill the state House passed Wednesday that supporters say will increase voters’ confidence.

The watermark would label both in-person and absentee ballots as “official Georgia ballots,” allowing election workers to quickly check their authenticity. Ballots are already printed on security paper that can be verified by an infrared scanner.

Adding watermarks to ballots comes with a one-time $110,000 cost to the state government to change Georgia’s ballot printing process.

“This is a low-cost, high-value measure,” said state Rep. John LaHood, a Republican from Valdosta who sponsored the bill. “The voter can see it with their eyes. ... This is a visible security feature that will be printed on the ballots.”

Republican activists alleged after GOP President Donald Trump lost his reelection that there were fake ballots in the 2020 election, but investigators were unable to find any. In Spalding County in 2022, someone cast a ballot on what looked like lined notebook paper, but a state investigation concluded that the ballot was in fact printed on authentic security paper, and the lines on the paper were created by an issue with the printer.

The watermark measure, House Bill 976, is the latest Republican proposal that they say will restore voter confidence after Trump’s loss.

Voter confidence plunged — especially among Republican voters — after Trump repeatedly alleged the election was stolen from him, though three vote counts showed he lost to Democrat Joe Biden by about 12,000 votes in Georgia. Investigations have dispelled claims of illegal ballot collection, dead voters and fraud.

In the latest poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 57% of voters said in January that they were at least somewhat confident this year’s election would be fair and accurate. Just 45% of conservative voters in the poll expressed confidence, compared with 76% of liberals and 63% of moderates.

The House approved the watermark legislation on a vote of 167-1, with only Democratic state Rep. Angela Moore of Stonecrest opposed. The bill now advances to the state Senate.


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