Local election officials are busy providing free demonstrations to the public on how Georgia’s new voting machines work before they are rolled out statewide for the March 24 presidential primary.

During a Feb. 13 demonstration of the machines at the Dunwoody Library, DeKalb Voter & Registration Elections official Nytia Harris walked dozens of people through the new system.

The system includes electronic check-in on a machine similar to an iPad, selection of ballot choices electronically via a touch screen, and a paper record that lists in text the voter’s choices. The paper also includes a QR code. The paper is inserted into a scanner, the size of a large garbage can, that reads the QR code to count the votes. The scanner also stores the paper ballot.

Step 1: Shirley McAllister of Dunwoody checks in electronically to vote during a Feb. 13 demonstration of the state’s new voting machines at the Dunwoody Library. (Dyana Bagby)
Step 2: Shirley McCallister makes her choices on a mock ballot via a touch screen. (Dyana Bagby)
Step 3: DeKalb Voter & Registration Elections official Nytia Harris, left, shows Shelagh Clegg how to insert her paper ballot with a list of her selections into a scanner. The scanner reads a QR code on the paper to tabulate the ballot. (Dyana Bagby)

“Truthfully, this is not a whole lot different than what we were using before, except now we get a piece of paper,” said Shelagh Clegg, who tested out the new machines at the library. “At least we have a record with the paper.”

The General Assembly approved purchasing the machines for the entire state for more than $100 million following legal challenges to the state’s current electronic voting system.

The former system required people to check in to vote by checking in to vote by filling out a piece of paper. The voter would then get a yellow card that would be inserted into a touch screen machine that would then record the ballot selections.

Questions raised during the Dunwoody demonstration about the new voting machines included how to ensure voter privacy; accuracy of the ballot counts; and if there would be enough help at each precinct in case there are slowdowns created by people confused with the new machines.

Partitions are to be placed around the touch screens to provide privacy, Harris said. DeKalb County plans to add several more poll workers at each precinct to assist voters than in the past to limit potential backups. There will be one scanner for every 11 touch screens, which is expected to meet voter demand.

None of the devices used to vote are connected to the internet, so no hacking can occur, Harris said. The machines don’t keep track of the ballot, Harris explained. It’s the scanner that reads the QR code from the paper that counts the ballot.

Another voter machine demonstration in Dunwoody is set for Feb. 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at City Hall, 4800 Ashford-Dunwoody Road.

A demonstration is set for Feb. 26 in Brookhaven from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Briarwood Recreation Center, 2235 Briarwood Way.

Fulton County Registration & Elections will hold mock elections on the machines on Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In Sandy Springs, the mock elections will be held at the North Fulton Service Center, 7741 Roswell Road, and the Sandy Springs Library, 395 Mount Vernon Highway. In Buckhead, a mock election will be held at the Chastain Park Gym at 140 Chastain Park Ave.

The Georgia Secretary of State includes information on the new voting system at securevotega.com that includes this video:

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.