031619_TCT_HouseBill316_3

Currently, voters in Georgia cast their votes through a “Direct Recording Electronic” voting system, where a computer casts and counts votes as a voter touches a screen or electronic button. If HB 316 passes the Senate and is approved by Gov. Kemp, this system will change. / Alexis Draut

The Georgia House passed a new bill regarding election protocol and how voters will cast their ballots, introducing the idea of an electronic ballot marking device. Gordon County’s Board of Elections and Voter Registration said this will be a positive change.

The Georgia Senate is on its second reading of House Bill 316, which passed the House at the end of February. The bill, if passed, would provide for uniform election equipment in the state, as well as ballot marking devices and standards, which would be a transition from the current system.

Currently, voters across Georgia cast their votes through a “Direct Recording Electronic” voting system, meaning that a computer casts and counts votes as a voter touches a screen or button next to the candidate of their choice.

The passing of HB 316 would incorporate the use of “Electronic Ballot Markers,” which would be a device that doesn’t compute or count votes. Instead, it would independently and privately mark a paper ballot with the choice of a voter, offer a chance for the voter to confirm their vote and print a paper ballot.

Gordon County Board of Elections and Voter Registration Chairwoman Shea Hicks said the board is excited about HB 316, as it would be beneficial to voters and election officials. The bill would introduce the use of paper ballots, which would be read by ballot scanners and confirmed by the voter before added to other votes.

“The Georgia Secretary of State is in support of HB 316 and we are in support of this bill,” Hicks said. “There are a lot of updates to the Georgia Election Code in this bill that would be very beneficial.”

According to Hicks, HB 316 would move the county and state to an electronic ballot marking devices, but would allow the voter to see on paper what candidates they voted for before their vote is cast.

If the bill passes the Senate, it would then go to Gov. Brian Kemp’s office for his stamp of approval. and if HB 316 moves all the way through the General Assembly and becomes a law, the Georgia Secretary of State will have pilot programs across the state for municipal elections in 2019 to help voters get used to the adjustment, Hicks said.

Hicks said the goal is to have a new voting system in place for the 2020 election season, as having the presidential election would greatly increase traffic of voters.

“Once this system is implemented we will have extra poll workers and office staff to help educate the voters in Gordon County on how to use the new voting equipment,” Hicks said. “We are very excited about moving to a new voting system across the state.”

HB 316 is sponsored by Representatives Barry Fleming, R — Harlem, Jan Jones, R — Milton, and Jon Burns, R — Newington. In the Senate, the bill is sponsored by Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick.