Raffensperger: Georgia buying new voter registration system

In this Dec. 14, 2020, file photo, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a press conference in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

Georgia’s secretary of state is buying a new voter registration system for the state’s 7 million voters, a move Republican Brad Raffensperger said Wednesday will enhance security and make it easier to retrieve data.

The state’s current system is nearly a decade old, and was blamed for slowdowns during the first few days of early in-person voting in the 2020 primary elections, when the system could not access data fast enough to handle a large volume of voters.

“This new system is more advanced, more secure, and more user friendly and will give our election directors and my office new tools to better manage our election efforts,” Raffensperger said.

Georgia’s election procedures have been a subject of contention in recent years, climaxing with intense criticism of Raffensperger by fellow Republicans who believe he did not do enough to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia in 2020, followed by a restrictive new election law that knocked Raffensperger off the State Election Board.

Officials say the new system will cost less than $5 million, with funding split between leftover bond funds the state borrowed to buy new voting machines and federal money.

The new voter registration system, called the Georgia Registration Voter Information System, is planned to begin operating in March. It comes as county election officials try to make sure voters are placed correctly in new election districts drawn every 10 years for federal, state and local offices. Election directors are also preparing for statewide elections for governor and other posts that begin with the May 24 party primaries.

More than a dozen county election directors appeared with Raffensperger to back the change. Douglas County’s Milton Kidd said the change would be a challenge, but expressed confidence that “Douglas County will be ready.”

The state plans to keep the current system online as a backup and will make redistricting changes in the current system and then transfer the data to the new system.

The new system is designed to allow officials to make reports more quickly and to make it easier to download data onto the tablet computers used at polling places to access voter data. Raffensperger said voters should notice little if any change to their online information page or anything else.

Raffensperger pledged the system would be housed on servers that meet federal security standards. The state faced questions in 2017 over election data that was vulnerable to being compromised on a server located at Kennesaw State University.

The state will be using a database from San Francisco-based software company Salesforce, implemented by Texas-based MTX Group.