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Groups Claim New Voting Machines Will Cost Counties Millions Extra; Georgia Secretary Of State’s Office Disagrees

Fair Fight Action, The National Election Defense Coalition and Freedom Works compiled this study on Georgia's new voting system.
Fair Fight Action, The National Election Defense Coalition and Freedom Works compiled this study on Georgia's new voting system.
Credit Mike Stewart / Associated Press
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A new study warns that Georgia’s new voting system could cost counties more than $80 million over the next 10 years.

The study was compiled by three groups: Fair Fight Action, a group founded by former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams; The National Election Defense Coalition, which declares itself bi-partisan; and Freedom Works, a conservative group.

That cost estimate, for some counties, includes the purchase of additional voting machines for this coming election to meet requirements under a new law that passed this year. The law, House Bill 316, mandates that each precinct has one voting station for every 250 registered voters.

The estimates for the additional machines gathered in the study varied from hundreds, such as in Fulton County, to no additional machines, such as in DeKalb County.

The state of Georgia agreed to a $107 million contract with Dominion Voting Systems in July. The groups who compiled the election cost study argue that the terms of the contract don’t cover warranty and licensing costs in the future, as well as printing costs like paper and toner, leaving the counties to foot the bill.

“The Secretary of State is sweeping these costs under the rug, but the counties will still be on the hook for them,” said Susan Greenhalgh, vice president of policy and programs at the National Election Defense Coalition in a press release. “The counties need to be armed with the true costs of running elections on this system so they can make informed decisions on the best way to serve their voters.”

The Georgia secretary of state’s office argues the analysis simply isn’t true.

Gabe Sterling, chief operating officer for the secretary of state’s office, said the law was designed “to keep as much of this [cost] off the counties as possible. Because we know we have the buying power of the state to do this.”

He said the main costs falling to counties include paper, toner, optional warranties, poll workers and the tables for the voting machines.

“There are some activists out there saying there’s millions of dollars out there they’re going to have to spend extra,” he said. “It’s simply a silly misdirection that’s not true.”

Sterling argued the correct number of machines have already been purchased by counties, and counties will not be liable to pay licensing fees.

“They’ve listed $17 million for machines that we’ve already purchased. The state’s already gotten that, so obviously, we’re picking up that cost,” Sterling said. “They’re listing license fees the counties will not have to pay, so that’s $20 million gone. That’s nearly $40 million that’s just not real.”