voting machine demo

Glynn County Board of Elections and Registration Supervisor Chris Channell, right, walks Donovan Bottorff through the process of voting on the new voting machines during a demonstration of the machine at Pine Ridge Baptist Church Tuesday.

Elections officials received an update on the county’s new voting machines Tuesday and learned the office may end up going over budget because of personnel requirements.

The board has received all but 20 of its 255 touchscreen machines and printers from the state. The new machines include a printed paper ballot component, a scanner and a ballot box.

Once ballots are cast on the touchscreen device, voters can review their choices before running them through a scanner, which will deposit them into an attached ballot box.

Chris Channell, supervisor of Glynn County Elections and Registration, said they have more than enough machines for the presidential preference primary in March without the other 20.

As the new machines arrive, the old ones go out. Channell said the secretary of state’s office retrieved the old machines last week.

He advised the board that the elections office will likely exceed its budget for poll workers. The state has not issued a set number of workers per polling place, but Channell noted that a number of counties that piloted the machines during the 2019 municipal elections recommend doubling precinct staff.

The county board of elections usually employs five to six workers per precinct, Channell said. At the very least, Glynn will need one additional poll worker at each of its 20 precincts to keep an eye on the scanners and ballot boxes.

Some precincts may need to hire additional helpers to change out printer ink and paper, assist voters who don’t know how to use the new machines and for other tasks.

After the meeting, Channell said he will do his best to stay within budget.

The federal government could be called upon to lighten the financial burden. It’s offering a $15,000 grant to help pay for “non-consumable” items, like security cameras, tables, power strips and privacy screens for voting machines, Channell said.

The county’s budgeting process will make it a little easier, Channell explained. The March presidential preference primary and May general primary will take place during the 2019-2020 fiscal year while the November general election will occur during the county’s 2020-2021 fiscal year.

The two primaries will give the elections office a good idea of how much it will need to spend on future elections, he said.

The board also discussed a new early voting polling place, this one proposed for the Ballard Complex on Old Jesup Road. It will see its first use during the March presidential preference primary.

Opening the new polling location also will require additional security measures.

“They need to change the locks,” said board member Sandy Dean.

Board chairwoman Patty Gibson said the building will not be secure enough to house voting machines until all keys to the facility are in the hands of an elections official. She said she is sure several keys are floating around in the community.

The board voted to enter closed session at the end of the meeting to discuss personnel matters. It emerged after about 15 minutes but took no action.

According to board member Tommy Clark, the private discussion was postponed to a special called meeting today at 3 p.m. in the Office Park Building at 1815 Gloucester St. in Brunswick.

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