Members of the Glynn County Board of Elections discussed Tuesday pending state legislation to update voting equipment throughout the state.
House Bill 316 would, among other things, standardize the voting equipment of all Georgia counties, open new avenues for voter registration and change the rules on voting precinct realignments and polling place closures.
The state appropriated $150 million to pay for the new equipment, but hadn’t yet released information on how it would be distributed how many each county will receive, said Chris Channell, interim elections and registration supervisor.
In a previous interview with The News, Channell said that, whichever manufacturer the state ends up buying new machines from, they will likely include a touchscreen voting machine that prints a paper receipt of cast ballots.
Voters would then scan their receipts into a machine that will tally up all the votes at that polling place. The system also includes new poll book equipment, Channell said.
Board Chairwoman Patty Gibson asked Channell if the state plans to purchase all the new machines needed or just the touchscreen voting equipment.
“As far as additional expenses, I don’t foresee any because right now we have all those same expenses that we have currently with absentee ballots and provisional ballots,” Channell said.
Gibson responded that she wanted to be absolutely sure before the county gets too deep into the budgeting process for the fiscal year 2019-2020.
“But I’m afraid to assume that. I really am,” Gibson said. “They may buy just the (touchscreen) machines. That’s why I want to know what’s going to be a local expense. Because if we have to pay for those scanners for each location, for a storage box for the ballots for each location, we need to know that up front, so we can get it in our budget.”
Channell said he’d double check, but he was confident the state would cover all the equipment needed.
“I think that’s in the whole package that the state’s providing,” Channell said.
“It’s all-inclusive,” board member Ruby Robinson added.
In other business, the board heard an update on a project to scan voter registration information into a digital database.
Elections staff are “on pace” to finish the project within the one-year period, as originally planned, Channell said.
The project involves attaching barcodes to registration documents and scanning them into the database.
So far, 20 percent of voter registration documents have barcodes attached, but workers have fallen behind on scanning them into the system due to a quirk in the scanning software, Channell explained.
If someone attempts to scan multiple registration cards assigned to the same person at the same time — a voter gets a new registration whenever they change their registration information — only the last scanned document is saved into the database. Elections staff have worked around this limitation by scanning cards one at a time, but it’s slowed the process down.
“We’re probably right on pace, honestly,” Channell said. “Office staff is going to continue to barcode, so the more they barcode as they’re allowed to during their normal workday, that should put us further and further ahead on the barcode side.”
Channell said Glynn County’s IT Department is trying to find a temporary workaround while the Georgia Secretary of State’s office works with the manufacturer on a permanent fix. Once they have a solution, the scanning side of the project should pick up quickly, he said.
Channell also gave the board updates on its budget and on an upcoming conference for elections officials on Jekyll Island.
During the budget update, Channell told the board that he had not had any resistance to its request for a budget increase to pay for a new early voting polling location in the Ballard Complex.
Robinson said the county will likely see it’s a good idea come the 2020 presidential election, and would likely make it a permanent third early voting location.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for April 9. Gibson told the board to come ready for an extended closed session to look at elections and registration supervisor applications.