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During a Board of Commissioners Town Hall, Oconee Elections Director Fran Leathers assured voters that Oconee’s new 119 ballot devices and corresponding printers, as well as 17 precinct scanners, are safe and secure.

“Security is at a much higher level with the paper back-up used for auditing purposes or a recount,” Leathers told The Oconee Enterprise.

During a presentation of the new equipment, however, Watkinsville City Councilman Dan Matthews told a representative of the Secretary of State’s Office that he was not confident the state has tested for every possible scenario.

“I’m afraid something is going to happen that you haven’t planned for yet,” said Matthews, citing multiple scenarios, including what would happen if someone poured a drink on an electronic device (food and drinks are not allowed, Leathers said). “I’m concerned that you haven’t given it enough stress testing.” 

In response to public criticism from the 2018 gubernatorial election, the Georgia General Assembly last year passed legislation mandating new voting machines for Georgia’s 159 counties.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia was the first state to switch to electronic voting machines in 2002.

The latest method combines both electronic technology and paper ballots.

The new machinery will be used for all elections this year, the first of which is the March 24 Presidential Primary, followed by the May 19 General Primary, a potential runoff in July and the Nov. 3 General Election. The equipment will also be used for all early voting or Saturday voting.

After scanning a driver’s license or photo ID through an electronic tablet, voters will fill out the ballot on a touch-screen device (Enlarged text remains an option) and will then receive a printout of the ballot that they can check before scanning it for vote tabulation. 

Leathers explained that the printed ballots will be analyzed in the event of a recount and also for state-mandated auditing.

Voters are allowed to leave portions of their ballot blank if they don’t want to vote for a particular office, and voters can still write in a candidate as well, said Leathers.

Leathers said poll workers will make sure that people don’t walk out of a precinct without scanning their ballot.

“You can’t come back and revote if you walk out the door [with a ballot],” Leathers said.

Precinct changes 

The precinct for North High Shoals has moved from the fire station to the new Town Hall within the town park. Malcom Bridge Middle School will no longer serve as a polling site due to security reasons, said Leathers, explaining that the precinct will move to Philothea Greek Orthodox Church, located at 3761 Mars Hill Road.

The county has also closed the Government Annex precinct, leaving City Hall as the sole voting place for Watkinsville residents.

Leathers said that in addition to signage explaining those changes, the Elections Office will assign poll workers to the defunct precincts at peak hour in order to redirect voters to the correct polling site.

The voter registration deadline for the Presidential Primary is Feb. 24. Voters can check their registration status at the Georgia Secretary of State website, mvp.sos.ga.gov.

For more on this story, see the Jan. 16 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website. 

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