voting with paper ballots (Mikko Lemola/Shutterstock.com)

Georgia’s voting technology under the microscope (again)

Georgia’s $100 million high-tech voting system has come under new scrutiny as in-person early voting is slated to begin Oct. 12.

In the upcoming special election for the Senate, the list of 21 candidates was so long it was divided into two screens, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. In some of the testing, the second column of names did not always appear, officials said Sept. 26.

“Logic and accuracy testing discovered an issue where if a user flips back and forth multiple times between the Senate special election and the previous race (which is not typical), the second column would, in rare occasions, not appear,” Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs told AJC. “This was discovered as it should have been during L&A testing.”

In June, the state rolled out the new voting machines for the primary elections. With the new ballot-marking devices, voters use the touchscreen to make their selections, and the machine prints out a ballot indicating those choices. Voters review the printed ballot and run it through ballot-scanning machine for tabulation. The paper ballots are stored in case they’re needed for an audit or recount.

The primary did not go as smoothly as officials hoped, with long lines in some voting stations reportedly caused by consolidated precincts, undertrained poll workers who were having difficulties with the newly purchased voting machines, a shortage of ballot scanners and the freezing of the electronic pollbooks, the tablet devices that are used to check in registered voters.

Testing has been paused until the problem can be corrected, but state officials said they do not anticipate it will cause any delays with preparations for the November general election.

Two days later, on Sept. 28, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg ruled that every polling place in Georgia must have at least one updated paper backup of its electronic poll book as a guard against equipment malfunctions, AP reported.

Earlier this month Totenberg presided over a three-day hearing concerning Georgia’s voting machines. The lawsuit against state and county election officials originally filed in 2017 “challenged the state’s old, outdated voting machines but has since been amended to target the new machines and election system,” AP reported.

Totenberg said she needs more time to address the other issues at stake, but wanted to give the state enough time to provide paper pollbook backups.

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