The word of the day was “uncertainty” at the Glynn County Board of Elections’ meeting on Tuesday.
Georgia’s State Elections Board has yet to establish rules governing handling and security measures for the state’s new voting machines, and until it does the county board of elections can’t thoroughly plan its budget.
“When it comes to the budget, there’s a whole lot we don’t know,” Elections and Registration Supervisor Chris Channell told the county board on Tuesday.
While the current fiscal year doesn’t end until June 30, 2020, the county is in the midst of planning for the next fiscal year. Given the lack of information, Channell said the elections office can't accurately budget for the next fiscal year.
Channell said he’s heard the new rules may not be finalized until sometime in January. Currently, he said the elections office is projecting a $41,000 budget increase in the next fiscal year. The actual figure could be much higher or lower depending on what the rules are, he said.
First off, storing the new machines will require an overhaul of the elections office’s storage space. The new machines aren’t one piece, like the state’s old machines, but come in multiple pieces — a touchscreen ballot casting device, a printer to print ballots, a scanner to record the votes and a ballot box to store the printed ballots.
Only one ballot box and scanner will be needed per voting precinct, but the board will have to contend with more than 200 sets of touchscreens and printers.
Assistant Elections and Registration Supervisor Christina Redden presented a plan to rework the current voting machine storage area, but to make it work the elections office needs to purchase new shelving and rearrange some of its office space.
In addition, Channel said the board also must purchase or rent new tables and power strips to accommodate the printer and touchscreen setups.
In particular, security could cost a lot more or a lot less than the projected amount in the budget, he explained.
The county board of elections’ new budget will include some money to additional security measures, he said, but he can’t be sure if its enough until the rules are handed down.
There’s been some talk at the state level suggesting that the new rules will require overnight security guards at all precincts on the night before and after election days, Channell said, which would inflate the budget requirements even more.
Because the presidential and general primary elections will occur during this fiscal year, the elections office may need to increase its budget this year as well, not just next year.
“The (Glynn) County Commission is going to have to understand our budget is in flux,” said board member Sandy Dean.
While it may seem like a bad situation, Chairwoman Patty Gibson said its something every county in the state is dealing with. If the state is going to force these expenses on local governments, Gibson said it will have to offer some kind of assistance.
In other business, the board discussed goals and objects for the coming year and heard an update on the elections office’s effort to scan all voter registration information into a digital database. The project is roughly 79 percent complete, Channell said.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 14.