Glynn County’s Board of Elections is scheduled to meet Tuesday to hear an update on election legislation under consideration in the state capitol.
“From what it sounds like, this year’s municipal election will be the last election with the old (voting) equipment,” said Interim Elections and Registration Supervisor Chris Channell.
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 House of Representatives approved the bill last month, and the state Senate gave a favorable report Thursday, meaning it is likely headed to the floor for discussion in the near future. Channell, who visited the capitol recently to discuss legislative issues, said it seems likely the bill will be signed into law.
“(Former Secretary of State, now Gov. Brian) Kemp was very eager to get this new system in place, so I think that was a priority getting it through. I don’t think he’s not going to sign it if the Senate passes it,” Channell said.
If approved, the Georgia Secretary of State would put out a request for proposal, he said. Polling machine vendors would submit their proposal, one of which would be selected by the secretary.
State officials have regularly consulted with four or five vendors, all of which offer similar products, Channell said.
“Depending on what they choose to go with — and we’ll know more in the next 60 days because by that point they’ll have the machines narrowed down — we’re looking at ballot-marking devices. It will be a touchscreen like voters are used to, but it would print out a slip of paper that would show who they voted for, which would then be run through a scanner and that would be how we tally them up,” Channell said. “... There will be a ballot-marking device and a scanning component that’s separate from it, and they all have a poll book component.”
The state is likely to decide on touchscreen machines as they are more accessible for the elderly and disabled, Channell said.
In addition, a true paper ballot doesn’t always allow for voter intent. If someone makes a mistake in hand-marking a ballot a scanner could reject it, Channell explained. It would then be up to the board of elections’ personnel to attempt to determine the voter’s intent.
“The earlier the state gets it decided on, gets the equipment procured, and we can start the training the better. We want to make sure all the poll workers are familiar with it before getting out into the field for the election,” Channell said.
Channell stressed the training aspect, saying it will take time to get all the elections staff and poll workers up to speed in time for the 2020 election. Luckily most new machines he’s seen are similar enough that he doesn’t think there will be any radical changes to procedure.
The board is also expected to hear updates on a project to scan all voter registration information into a digital database and election office operations, among other things.
The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Office Park Building, 1815 Gloucester St. in Brunswick.