The Glynn County Board of Elections got some answers from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office this week, but still has plenty of questions about how to run an election with the state’s new voting machines.
State officials announced in August that Georgia would purchase new voting machines for $112 million from the Canada-based Dominion Voting Systems. The purchase is part of an elections overhaul signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in April.
The new machines feature a touchscreen similar to the old machines. But instead of storing ballots in a digital format on a memory card, voters will print their ballots before running them through a scanner.
Once through the scanner, ballots will drop directly into a locked ballot box.
Elections staff set up the one machine they had received at the board’s Tuesday meeting to demonstrate how it worked.
Sometime before the March 2020 presidential primary election, Elections and Registration Supervisor Chris Channell said, the board will get the rest of the 235 touchscreens and printers and 26 scanners and ballot boxes the state government promised.
Board member Patricia Featherstone wondered if 235 machines would be enough for Glynn County.
As far as he knew, Channell said the board had never used more than 200 machines in a single election.
Channel said he could foresee two problems arising from the new machines: They take up a lot of space, and they use more power outlets that the old models.
Because the machines come in two separate parts — the printer and touchscreen — the board will need twice as many power outlets. Because they don’t come with stands of their own, the board will also need to get ahold of a lot more tables than it currently has.
Each precinct will get one scanner and ballot box, which is another power outlet to account for.
From a financial perspective, Channell said the elections office may need to request more money from the county to pay for power strips and tables.
It will not have to pay for privacy screens, as he initially feared.
He said elections staff will eventually need to review each polling place, possibly laying out diagrams to make sure each voting machine and printer has a power outlet and enough table space to accommodate the privacy screen.
The state is still working to codify the new policies and procedures governing the machines, he said. How each part of the new voting system will be stored is still unknown, but it’s likely that the scanners and ballot boxes will require greater security than the touchscreens and printers.
“The scanner is the key ingredient,” Channell said. “It holds all the election results.”
Another monkey wrench is a previously existing Georgia law that requires the state and counties to keep copies of election records for two years before destroying them. With tens of thousands of voters participating in every election, the board is going to have to find a way to store paper ballots.
Exactly where those ballots will be stored is something the state will have to decide. Currently, the county, state and Glynn County Clerk of Superior Court keep copies of elections records.
Board members wondered where they would be able to put all this new stuff.
“We’re going to need a bigger boat,” said board member Keith Rustin.
“No, we need a ship,” Channell responded.
Another aspect of the switch is the need to contend with is a public education campaign, Featherstone reminded her fellow board members.
With only one machine and not much confidence they’ll get the rest in a timely manner, chairwoman Patricia Gibson said the board should go ahead and begin doing what it can.
Public demonstrations and smaller demos with civic groups are on the table. Spreading information through social media, posters, mailers and local media are all avenues she said the board should pursue.
Channell said the board has a demonstration planned for February’s First Friday in downtown Brunswick and more in smaller venues.
Gibson encouraged him to find a way to set the machine up in the board’s office at 1815 Gloucester St. in Brunswick for anyone to come in and look at.
In other business, Channell updated the board on some potential polling place moves.
Finding a new location for the Burroughs-Molette Elementary School polls is still ongoing, but a plan to move the polling location in Oglethorpe Point Elementary School to Golden Isles Presbyterian Church is going smoothly.
The board’s next meeting is set for Nov. 12.