House Bill 1215, sponsored by state Rep. Tim Bearden, R-Villa Rica, sets a July 1 deadline to replace the electronic voting systems statewide.
Voter GA, a nonprofit organization suing to ban the electronic machines, issued a statement Monday in support of the bill. They argue that candidates and voters can never be sure of the election results since the machines don’t print paper records that can be recounted by hand if necessary.
“The intent is to confirm that votes are being counted correctly on Election Day at the source where they are originally created,” the statement says.
The group estimates statewide replacement of the machines would cost $30 million.
State Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said she has not yet seen the legislation, which was filed Thursday, but the price tag could be a hurdle. Lawmakers are in the midst of an unscheduled two-week recess so that the House and Senate appropriations committees can find ways to cut the budget.
“The committees are looking at very, very deep cuts to balance our budget,” Dempsey said.
“Anything that requires a cost is going to be challenging at this stage, matter how good the project or great the need.”
Floyd County Manager Kevin Poe said he has concerns about the local financial burden. While the state initially provided each county with a set number of the electronic machines, there has been no further funding for maintenance or replacements.
“We’ve been trying to budget for a few new ones every year,” Poe said. “The legislature needs to go ahead and make up its mind about which one they think is best to use.”
Bearden’s bill has co-sponsors from both parties, including state Reps. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, and Karla Drennen, D-Avondale Estates. Bearden is vice chair of the House Governmental Affairs Committee that is considering the proposal.
Voter GA described the bill as one that would eventually help the budget by switching from the mini-computers used now to scanners that read paper ballots and require little programming.
“The savings could be achieved because each precinct would require only one optical-scan counter and a ballot marker for the visually impaired instead of up to two-dozen voting machines,” the group said.
Interim Secretary of State Brian Kemp says the timing is wrong for replacing the machines.
“Requiring county and local governments to implement new voting systems in this fiscal year, when every local and state agency is making significant budget cuts, would be too much of a financial burden,” he said. “However, I look forward to working with the sponsors to discuss their ideas for Georgia’s next-generation elections equipment.”
Election workers report that voters of all ages enjoy the ease of using the touch-screen machines.
But the lack of paper records has been a concern of critics since they were introduced because there is no way to verify that the electronic tally matches what voters intended.