The state Senate has one bill scheduled for discussion Wednesday — House Bill 316, the massive voting equipment overhaul favored by the governor and the General Assembly’s Republican leadership.
Once H.B. 316 passed out of the state House on Feb. 26 with a vote of 101-72, it went to the Senate Ethics Committee’s subcommittee on elections and voting, which is chaired by state Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak. H.B. 316 passed both subcommittee and committee last week. Ligon, who also serves as the Senate sponsor for the bill, introduced it Monday to the Senate Rules Committee.
“This is the new elections bill, and it’s going to modernize our method of elections in our state,” Ligon said. “We’ll vote on electronic voting machines that’ll actually produce paper ballots so that you can see how you voted. It’ll be more secure and much better.”
Senate Democratic Leader Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain, asked if the bill has a fiscal note with it that would provide estimates as to how much it would cost to implement it. Ligon said there was no fiscal note, but $150 million appropriated to buy the machines.
Henson said, “Well, first of all, isn’t it a rule we’re supposed to have a fiscal note on something that has substantial financial impact, No. 1, and No. 2, isn’t it true that … whatever we’ve appropriated, other groups, a recent study from Open Source Election Technology came out and said it would cost about $203 million? Plus, a fiscal note would help provide us some better analysis at what the cost would be to counties later on. Don’t you think you were a little remiss in not getting a fiscal note?”
Ligon replied that since the $150 million was reviewed through the appropriations process in the governor’s budgeting office, its fiscal impact was handled.
State Sen. Horacena Tate, D-Atlanta, asked wasn’t it true that when the state bought the current machines, that it was said at the time they needed paper trails?
“In looking at that, and looking at the undervotes, that the machines we have now were an improvement over what was in place before in the paper ballots,” Ligon said.
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, noted today is “committee day” and they have a lot of House bills to hear and good ones to pass, but Wednesday would be reserved for H.B. 316 debate.
Henson added he’s glad that will be the only legislation on the Wednesday Rules calendar, so there will be a lot of time to discuss it.
The Senate is scheduled to convene Wednesday at 10 a.m.