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Floyd elections board reviews security issues and plans to address an error on local ballots

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Voting

Floyd County early voters in the May 22 election are asking for a Republican ballot over a Democratic ballot by a margin of more than 2 to 1 and elections officials are addressing an error on a small amount of ballots in the county school board race.

Elections Supervisor Willie Green said 850 people voted in the Republican primary compared to 364 in the Democratic primary as of the close of the polls Sunday night. Another 61 have asked for the nonpartisan ballot, containing only the judge races, bringing the total of early votes to 1,275 out of more than 50,000 eligible.

A runoff is expected in the Republican governor's race and voters who cast their ballot in the Democratic primary won't be able to participate. Green said Monday that one of the seven Republican candidates, Marc Urbach, has withdrawn and there are signs at the precincts warning that a vote for him won't be counted.

Floyd County Elections Board Chairman Steve Miller noted that Eddie Hayes also is withdrawing — an observation confirmed by Hayes, who said he planned to submit documentation to the secretary of state's office by the end of the day.

"I've had it notarized since May 5 but I just haven't had time to do it," Hayes said.

Signs also have been posted regarding an error on some local Republican ballots, and Elections Board members firmed up plans Monday for dealing with it. The two county school board races appear on city ballots, although city residents are ineligible to vote on those positions.

"It was an oversight in the elections office," Miller said.

Incumbents Chip Hood and Tony Daniel are unopposed for re-election in both the primary and the general election. That makes the fix easier, said Elections Board member Mardi Haynes-Jackson.

"We would have needed two databases to count the votes," she said.

Instead, the system will be reprogrammed to ignore votes cast electronically from the six city precincts affected. Elections Board member Dr. Thomas Rees emphasized that the two races would be removed, not the votes on those ballots. Paper absentee ballots mailed in to the elections office also will be remade without the races before they're counted.

"Less than 100 were sent out," Miller said. "And we'll only remake the ballots if they voted in those races. When there's only one candidate, a lot of people leave it blank."

There's a sworn committee authorized to remake ballots, which is necessary every election due to issues such as torn paper or votes for two or more candidates in one race. Each new ballot is done by three people from different political parties: one to read the original, one to mark the new ballot and one to verify the two match. Miller said all the papers are maintained together, available for recounts or audits.

Also on Monday, the Elections Board asked Green to arrange for a federal security assessment of the county's voting system. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offered in mid-April to do a free assessment of any city, county or state system, upon request.

Green said the county's Information Systems department protects local election data, adding that it's generally the larger counties that are at risk from hacking. However, Miller pointed to recent reports that a confirmed Russian cyber-attack in Illinois included viewing the registration rolls of Galesburg, which has about 14,000 voters.

"For the sake of security, I see no reason why we shouldn't have an assessment. We're not experts in that," Miller said.

The secretary of state's office has already changed the way it delivers ExpressPoll memory cards to local elections offices. Green said instead of getting the cards by mail, they must be picked up in person. Elections Clerk Vanessa Waddell went last week to Cartersville, where a state investigator delivered cards to officials from several counties in the region.

Early voting in the May 22 election runs through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the County Administration Building, 12 E. Fourth Ave., Garden Lakes Baptist Church, 2200 Redmond Circle, or the Rome Civic Center on Jackson Hill. All 25 precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day.