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Georgia voters urged to review printed ballots before casting vote

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says it can ease hacking concerns. Yet voters often don't do it.

ATLANTA — Many voters appear to be ignoring an election security request from election officials. They’re asking voters to actually proofread their computer-generated ballots before casting them.  

The unusual request comes in light of concerns raised over five years about the potential hacking of the computers that drive voting at precincts and during early voting.

Although there was an election security breach in a south Georgia county last year, election officials say everything indicates this fall’s election is secure. But they want voters to help ensure that.

When voters enter a polling station, they make their choices on a computerized ballot marking device. Then they print out the ballot, then slip it into a scanner that records it.  

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in September that voters also need to double-check their work.  

"I would hope voters understand this," he said. "You can look on there – and did you vote for Mary? Or did you vote for Bob?"

But how closely do voters actually look at their printed ballots? In DeKalb County Thursday, we saw voters barely glance at their ballots after they printed them and took them to the scanner. When asked how closely he looked at his ballot, Herman Donaldson of DeKalb said, "Not that closely. I should have, probably."

In 2018, the head of Georgia Tech's school of cybersecurity, Richard deMillo, led a group of observers at two polling sites in Tennessee. They watched whether voters double-checked their computer-generated paper ballots - and if so, for how long.

They found nearly "half the people, even when they were instructed to check their ballots, didn’t look at it," said Dr. Rich deMillo, who has been critical of computerized voting systems because of their vulnerability to hackers.

They found that 47% of voters observed didn't check their ballots at all. And the 53% that took the extra time to look over their ballot spent an average of 3.9 seconds.

"If half the people simply don’t check their ballots at all, it means what’s coming out of the ballot marking devices simply aren’t verified," DeMillo said.

There are two ways to sidestep this issue. One is to request a hand-marked absentee ballot. The other is to take 3.9 seconds - or longer - to actually read what the computer-printed ballot says before it's cast.

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