Election 2020, Politics

Officials Say Changes Should Make For Smoother Georgia Elections This Week And In November

Tuesday's runoffs will be the second Election Day test of Georgia's new voting machines, following the June primaries.
Tuesday's runoffs will be the second Election Day test of Georgia's new voting machines, following the June primaries.
Credit Emil Moffatt / WABE
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Officials are hoping more technical expertise in polling places will lead to fewer delays and shorter lines as Georgians go to the polls Tuesday for the primary runoff election.

In June, there were only one or two technicians per county, and that led to problems troubleshooting the state’s new voting machines when technical problems arose. In addition, many poll workers were new and didn’t have hands-on training. That snarled lines, especially early in the day in larger counties such as Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett.

For Tuesday’s runoff, metro Atlanta counties, along with the state and the voting machine vendor, have worked together to make sure there’s a trained technician in all polling places.

There’s also been more in-person poll worker training – all in an effort to keep the machines up and running and the lines moving.

Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts says the county has invested millions of dollars since the June primaries to see that problems are addressed.

“If there is a problem anywhere, in addition to the technician who is already in place, we will be able to go there – top management will be able to go there – to assist to make sure things go as smoothly as possible,” said Pitts.

Pitts says the runoff election Tuesday, as well as the special election in September to fill the remainder of U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ term, will give the county “two shots at perfecting what’s going to happen on Nov. 3.”

Meanwhile, the state election board on Monday adopted emergency rules meant to streamline the November elections.

The changes come as another record number of absentee ballots are expected to be cast for the general election. One challenge with more mail-in voting is counting the ballots quickly. It’s a process that involves verifying the signature of each voter and then manually feeding the ballot through a scanner.

Earlier this year, the state election board voted to allow counties to start this process eight days before Election Day. Ryan Germany with the Georgia secretary of state’s office says this helped, but counties often need more time than that.

“What we are proposing doing with this rule is adding an additional week prior to that. So basically back to the third Monday, or two weeks before the election,” said Germany.

The board also approved an emergency rule that lays down the framework for an online absentee ballot application portal, which is expected to be online in the next week.

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