Paper Ballot Push Gets Boost With Support Of Georgia Lt. Governor

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, right, seen here with former Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams, said the legislature must act “in haste” to setup a new paper ballot system. 

David Goldman / Associated Press

The effort to retire Georgia’s aging, electronic voting machines got a boost Wednesday from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, leader of the state Senate, who said the legislature must act “in haste” to setup a new paper ballot system.

“I think it is important that we have a paper ballot trail that ensures that accuracy is there, and that there are no games that potentially could be played,” Cagle, a Republican candidate for governor, said in an interview with WABE.

Georgia is one of just a few states that exclusively use voting machines without a paper trail. Cybersecurity experts agree it exposes the system to potential doubt, hacks and glitches.

“I’m super excited to have Lt. Gov. Cagle on board,” said Republican Rep. Scot Turner, the lead sponsor of a bi-partisan bill in the House that would require the state move to a paper ballot system, which could be audited.

State Sen. Bruce Thompson, chair of that chamber’s Science and Technology Committee, will sponsor a bill similar to Turner’s.

Thompson’s state Senate district includes part of Turner’s state House district. The two met Wednesday to discuss the details of Thompson’s legislation.

“It will not be identical to the one that’s in the House, but very, very similar,” Thompson said.

Cagle’s support of Thompson’s legislation means it’s likely to pass the Senate.

“The fact of the matter is our elections are very, very vulnerable,” Thompson said.  “This is our state, we should be able to protect our voting and our process.”

Although Turner was pushing for the state to update its voting system by 2018, in time for the upcoming midterm elections, he said that’s just not logistically, and financially feasible.

“The new goal is to get it up and running in 2019, in a non-presidential year, and have all the kinks worked out by the end of 2019, and in place and ready to go when we have the presidential primary in 2020.”

Speaking to WABE, Cagle made apparent references to controversy over the state’s voting system and election operations under the leadership of Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, another candidate for governor.

“There’s been a number of lawsuits and other issues that have been brought forth, and there’s certainly been a significant compromise to the data file as well,” Cagle said, a reference to multiple incidents where the personal information of registered voters has been exposed.

WABE requested comment from Kemp’s office, and received this response.

“Casey Cagle has now joined leading liberal conspiracy theorists like Barack Obama, Stacey Abrams, and the ACLU in attacking Georgia’s voting rolls, processes, and the citizens across the state who work tirelessly to maintain, protect, and ensure secure, accessible, and fair elections,” said Kemp in an emailed statement. “This decision needs to be made with input from legislators, county election officials, Georgia voters, and the Secretary of State – not conspiracy theorists or misinformed, craven candidates for higher office.”

Kemp’s office is adamant the elections system has not been compromised, and there’s no evidence it has been hacked.

Last year, the Secretary of State’s office, in coordination with the city of Conyers, outside Atlanta, ran a trial of paper ballot system.

But Kemp’s office has not made a push, at least publically, to secure funding or support from the state legislature for an overhaul of Georgia’s election technology.

Update: WABE contacted Cagle’s office, as well as his campaign, for a response to the statement from Kemp’s office.

“The conservative Republican senators supporting this legislation would be surprised to hear they’re backing a leftist agenda when in reality they just don’t trust the current Secretary of State to run a competent election — and with good reason,” said Cagle’s campaign manager Scott Binkley. “We’re looking to restore trust in our processes.”