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Critics: New Georgia voting system risks secret balloting

New machines due for trial runs in fall '19

ATLANTA — Critics of Georgia’s newly-purchased election system have filed a petition asking the state to re-examine it. The petition raises a new concern about whether the ballots can inadvertently identify the voter casting the ballot.  

Grade schoolers learn that Americans vote with a secret ballot. This complaint says that the individual ballots cast with the new machines could be traced to individual voters.

Next year, the state of Georgia wants voters to use a new voting machine from a company called Dominion voting systems.

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The system requires voters to select candidates on a computer screen.

The machine would print a paper ballot, then put the ballot in a scanner to record the vote.

Critics say the scanner would also encode a time-stamp– indicating the time of day the vote was cast.

"It’s very easy to figure out the time someone votes, right?" asked Marilyn Marks of the Coalition for Good Governance.  "If you had a target of one person – just sit there (in the precinct) and wait til they vote and note the time on your watch. And then have the bad guys go find that vote."

RELATED: Judge blasts Georgia officials' handling of election system

Marks says election workers would be able to find ways to read the time-stamps on ballots.  Electronic poll books could be used to link names to the time of day voters appear at a precinct, she said; recordings of surveillance systems in precincts using public buildings like schools or libraries could time-stamp faces, potentially accessible through open records requests.  

Marks says voters also can’t really read their paper ballots because they can’t read the QR code that gets scanned and tabulated.  State officials counter that the text on paper ballots would be readable in audits and recounts.  

The secretary of state’s office says “(these) complaints are raised by activists who want the implementation of Georgia’s new voting system to fail…. (Georgians) should reject these ridiculous tactics.”  Marks has been part of lawsuits demanding hand-marked paper ballots without computer aid.

The Secretary of State's office did not specifically address the issue of time stamps. But a state official told 11Alive that any time stamps would be encoded and inaccessible to poll workers and other election employees.


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