RIVERDALE — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, State Rep. Valencia Stovall and State Rep. Rhonda Burnough presented Georgia’s new voting machine system to the Frank Bailey Senior Center last Wednesday.
The new “ballot-marking devices,” or BMDs, print out a paper ballot the voter deposits in a scanner bin for counting, runs on Windows 10 and consists of:
an Apple iPad-based “Poll Pad” or electronic voter roll, designed by KnowInc♦ ., that a voter uses to sign in and that can read the oath to visually-impaired voters;
♦ the familiar chip card a voter uses to access the touch-screen ballot;
♦ a new, updated touch-screen ballot machine that can be adjusted to white text on a black background for visually-impaired voters;
♦ a printer that prints out a paper ballot with a QR code and text versions of the voter’s choices (here, the voter must check for errors and, if any appear, notify a poll worker of any necessary changes before casting the ballot;
♦ a large black plastic scanner bin where the voter actually casts the ballot, creating a digital image on two removable CF card for matching purposes, and holding the paper ballot securely until votes are counted.
The new system will mean quicker election results, officials say.
“It starts right in front with the electronic pollbook,” Raffensperger said. “KnowInc partnered with Dominion — Dominion has the overall contract — that actually is an iPad and uses Mac technology. It’s recognized as the best electronic poll book in America .... it’s really, really fast, really, really secure.”
After the voter moves to the touch screen and makes ballot choices, “This time, instead of casting the ballot, they’ll need to print the ballot,” Raffesperger explained. “So it’ll print out a ballot, right here on the HP printer. Now, it does use a special paper, so it’s all encrypted. So it’s not just like paper you buy from the store...kind of like the dollar bill.”
The next step, Raffensperger said, is for the voter to check the printed ballot: “Did I get everything right? Do I feel like I’ve got all my right selections?”
Finally, he explained, “You can put your piece of paper right-side up, upside-down, this way, that way, any of the four orientations, and then you press that green button, which casts your ballot. When it goes through there, it is casting and counting your ballot. But it also takes electronic codes. We have a scanned picture copy of that for permanent records, but then it drops into the box here.”
The News noted the ballot scanning bin looks like a big shredder.
“It does, doesn’t it?” Raffesperger laughed. “It looks like a big garbage can. But what that’s going to allow us to do, for the first time in 17 years, is when we have those close, close elections and the losing candidate says, ‘I want a recount,’ we can actually do a physical recount. We’ll just pull out those ballots.”
Every race will now have a paper trail that can be audited with the new system, Raffesnperger added. “It’s really a mathematical way of verifying your vote.”
Absentee ballots will be scanned at the county level, Raffesperger said, using a different machine.
Seniors and others lined up to test the new system, using a demonstration ballot in the form of a multiple-choice quiz about Georgia’s state bird, tree, founding date and top three crops.
Dominion Voting Systems, which the state awarded a $108 million, 10-year contract in July, makes the new BMD setup and the large ballot bins are made in a plant in Smyrna. Similar systems are used in California, New York and Louisiana.
Critics of BMDs point out that voters can’t tell whether the QR code matches the text on the paper ballot and that poll workers could use timestamps on the paper ballot to figure out who voted when. In May, U.S. District Judge Nina Totenberg gave the green light to a case alleging the new system should be replaced by hand-marked paper ballots.
A Sept. 2018 U.S. district court ruling prevented BMDs from being used in the upcoming Nov. 5 election. However, Raffensperger said the new machines will be tested in six counties around the state this November, including Lowndes, Decatur, Catoosa, Carroll, Paulding and Bartow, and will roll out statewide for the U.S. Presidential Primary March 24, 2020.