As March Elections Near, DeKalb Receives Shipment Of New Voting Machines

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger visits with DeKalb County Elections Board Chairman Samuel Tillman, left, as the county receives a shipment of the state’s new voting machine.

Emil Moffatt / WABE

The largest shipment of the state’s new voting machines arrived in DeKalb County Monday morning, with a little more than two months before early voting begins in Georgia’s presidential primary.

DeKalb is scheduled to receive 2,800 voting machines, which will be used for the first time for the March 24 presidential primary.

Samuel Tillman, chairman of the DeKalb County election board, said the county has been hiring new staff dedicated to learning the voting system.

“We knew this was coming, so we’ve been preparing for this for about, 90-120 days. We did not sit back and wait for the equipment to show up; we knew it was coming,” Tillman said.

DeKalb was using three of the new machines for training purposes prior to this week’s delivery. Tillman said having more machines will allow more DeKalb County voters to try them out before the March election.

It marks the first time in nearly two decades Georgia voters in all 159 counties will use new voting equipment. The system includes a tablet or “poll pad” for checking in, a large touchscreen monitor for making selections, a laser printer with each machine to print out a completed paper ballot and a scanner to record and store the ballot.

Nearing the end of 2019, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger maintains the equipment will get to the counties on schedule. He said the state is set to receive every “poll pad,” which can then be certified and distributed. He said the state has currently received 70% of the scanners and touchscreens from the vendor.

Raffensperger said the technical snags experienced in the six counties that pilot tested the voting machines in November give his office an idea of what to expect.

“What do we need to do? What kind of information can we provide? And so we’re excited about that because the runoffs went error-free, and that just shows you the advantage of training, training. training,” Raffensperger said. “But also having the pilots.”

The voting machines overhaul comes amid legal fights over whether the new system is secure and whether Georgia’s voting rolls are being properly maintained.

On Friday, a federal judge sided with the state over whether nearly 100,000 voters were being improperly removed from the voting rolls.

It was part of an overall voter list cleanup earlier this month that saw some 308,000 voters removed.

But 22,000 voters were put back on the list, as a result of legal filings from Fair Fight Action, the group suing the state. Raffensperger denied that the legal action had merit.

“These people, you know, activists, just continue to harangue our office and continue to waste taxpayer dollars. I guess they see it their mission to do that,” he said. “But we’re just following state laws and good practice.”