Georgia narrative about voting systems is false; legislators ignore benefits of vote-by-mail

computer network

As February came to a close, the Georgia legislature moved a bill forward that would replace the state’s 27,000 aging electronic voting machines with units that provide a paper-trail.

However, this narrative offered by Rep. Barry Fleming (R) is false:

The bill’s author, Republican state Rep. Barry Fleming of Harlem, said … electronic ballot markers are the only way to accommodate all Georgians, including disabled voters, with one system.

In Washington state, King County elections uses ClearBallot to both create the paper ballots mailed to voters and to manage the accessible voting units for any voter who wishes to vote in-person with assistive technology.

This system requires orders of magnitude fewer touchscreen computers. Each touchscreen unit prints a paper ballot that is read by the same system that scans paper ballots.

Vote-by-mail leads to reduced county overhead. It minimizes warehousing costs (few devices reduces space and security costs); eliminates the cost of setting up, tearing down and keeping secure thousands of poll locations; improves security because no volunteers staff poll locations; and improves security due to centralized voter verification and ballot tabulation.

However, Georgia does not seem to have a legislator who connects “paper ballots” with vote by mail, based on this comment from Rep. Valencia Stovall (D) which leaves me speechless:

“I don’t think we should be going back to paper ballots,” said Stovall, who represents Forest Park. “The millennials, they said they’re not going to stand in line and then bubble in their answers. That’s going to deter a lot of people from voting.”

Vote by mail on paper ballots provides a transparent voting system and offers vote-at-home convenience and a several-weeks-long early voting period. Plus, paper is more secure.

Why the Republican objection? Perhaps because vote-by-mail increases voter turnout, a phenomena that tends to foreshadow losses by the GOP.

GovTech provides a summary of pro/con arguments related to security:

Cybersecurity experts and election integrity advocates oppose ballot-marking devices. They say ballot-marking devices could be hacked to alter election results. Unlike ballots filled out by hand, ballot-marking devices print text of voters’ choices and, in some cases, encode those choices into bar codes for machine tabulation. Critics of ballot-marking devices say voters wouldn’t be able to know if the bar codes matched their printed choices.

Details on House Bill 316
Prime sponsor: Republican Barry Fleming, House District 121
Co-sponsors, all Republican: Ed Rynders, House District 152; Jan Jones, House District 47; Jon G. Burns, House District 159; Sam Watson, House District 172; Trey Kelley, House District 16.

Credit: featured image source.

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