Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey…on my mind

Story in Atlanta Journal-Constitution outlines what keeps election integrity awake all night: Georgia prepares to move from electronic to paper ballots <read>

State lawmakers broadly agree that it’s time to replace Georgia’s 27,000 direct-recording electronic voting machines with a system that leaves a verifiable paper trail.

With a paper ballot, recounts and audits could verify the accuracy of electronic tabulations.

But there’s disagreement about what kind of paper-based voting system Georgia should use and how much taxpayer money to spend on it…

One option calls for voters to complete paper ballots by hand, filling in bubbles with a pen and then inserting their ballots into optical scanners for tabulation.

Under another type of system, voters would choose their candidates on touchscreens — similar to those currently in use across the state — and then machines would print paper ballots reflecting their selections. Voters could then review their ballots and insert them into optical scanners…

Many election integrity advocates favor hand-marked paper ballots, saying they most closely reflect voters’ intentions. Election officials would be able to review how voters filled out their ballots, and they wouldn’t have to trust that a computer printed out their choices correctly.

Some county and state election officials prefer ballot-marking devices, which are more familiar to Georgia voters who are accustomed to casting their ballots on touchscreens. Ballot-marking devices can accommodate the disabled and elderly by adjusting type size or providing audio, and they help avoid mismarked ballots by preventing voters from circling candidates’ names or scratching out their choices.

There’s also a third potential option. Georgia could switch to hand-marked paper ballots and also provide at least one ballot-marking device at each precinct to accommodate the disabled…

Replacing the state’s voting machines won’t be cheap.

It could cost the public about $30 million to move Georgia to hand-marked paper ballots and over $100 million for ballot-marking devices.

Editorial

We favor the third option. Most voters filling out paper ballots by hand, with ballot marking devices available to accommodate those with disabilities. There is no guarantee voters actually check ballots created by ballot marking devices (see: Handmarked paper ballots more verifiable than ballot marking devices ), no guarantee they would consider it a machine error rather than their own mistake, and no reason for officials to believe or to verify voters that claim that the machine made an error. Worse many forms of those marking devices and their forms of ballot are much more difficult (expensive) to audit and recount.

It would be a sad shame if state and Federal money is spent to buy such risky equipment at triple the cost of voter marked paper ballots.

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