New voting machines coming

Georgia voters will see new electronic touchscreen voting machines statewide that print auditable paper ballots. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said the bill “modernizes Georgia’s voting system and ensures our elections remain secure, accessible and fair.” / Contributed

This session the Georgia General Assembly has passed legislation that will secure our state’s new voting system. This will give the people of Georgia an updated, state-of-the-art touch-screen voting system, as we make the simple transition to ballot marking devices (BMDs).

House Bill 316 will allow the state to purchase new voting machines for every county, putting in place machine marked ballots which will provide the most clear and accurate election results. Ballot-marking devices will allow voters to make their selections with a touch screen and then prints out their choices on a paper ballot so they can review it before submitting their vote. This will address the irregularities of hand marked paper ballots, allowing for a fair and accurate vote count in every election. This also allows for an audit in every election. Not only will there be a digital vote count, but it will provide a physical paper ballot that can be counted by hand.

I have firsthand experience with the error and fraud that can be the result of the use of hand marked ballots. In 1998 I ran for public office for the first time, where hand marked paper ballots were used. I initially won the election by 23 votes but as in all races this close, a recount was called for. 151 new hand marked ballots just so happened to be discovered. I was awarded a mere six of these ballots, with the rest going to my incumbent opponent who was then deemed the new winner.

This is why it is so important that handwritten paper ballots are no longer a part of the voting process and why I voted yes on HB 316. By using machine marked ballots, this kind of voting fraud can be minimized. These new voting machines will make sure that we have a secure elections system and will provide the people of Georgia with a safe and accessible voting system that we can trust.

Not only do these new voting machines provide for fair and accurate elections, but they also account for handicap and elderly accessibility. To force Georgians who live life with a disability or cannot use the antiquated system of hand-marked paper ballots is discriminatory and eliminates our privilege of a private vote.

Not only is this system accessible, it is the most cost-effective option for local governments. Over a 10-year period, hand-marked paper ballots will cost counties well over $200 million. However, with the new touch-screen systems, the state bears the bulk of the cost, negating a top-down, unfunded mandate. This is an investment in our most fundamental right of voting that will save the state and our counties money overall.

This legislation is simply Georgia’s best option and I am proud to have voted yes on HB 316. I strongly encourage every Georgian, from Walker County to Seminole County, to support this measure.

Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis, a Republican from Chickamauga, is chairman of the Rules Committee. He represents the 53rd Senate District, which includes Catoosa, Dade, and Walker counties and portions of Chattooga County. He can be reached at his office in Atlanta at 404-656-0057 or by email at jeff.mullis@senate.ga.gov.