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Athens says no to new voting machines, citing lack of privacy

Elections board says they'll use hand-marked paper ballots for presidential preference primary.

ATHENS, Ga. — The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections voted Tuesday night to reject the state's new voting machine system. 

The board voted 3-2 to use hand-marked paper ballots instead for the duration of the presidential preference primary.

Georgia rolled out its new computerized ballot-marking devices for the first time statewide when early voting in the primary began Monday.  Voters in Clarke County used them Monday and Tuesday.

But the board "found it impracticable to ... protect absolute ballot secrecy while allowing sufficient monitoring" of the computerized voting system in Athens' early voting site, according to a statement issued by elections board chairman Jesse Evans.

11Alive News heard similar complaints during a visit to a south Georgia special election in February.  Voters said the large, bright and upright computer touchpads were visible to other people and poll workers inside precincts.

Election officials told us the devices were difficult to position inside polling places in such a way that also assured that poll workers could monitor voter activity according to state law. That's required in order to deter tampering with the machines.

The state purchased 33,000 of the new machines from Dominion Voting Systems last year, at a cost of $107 million.  

Clarke County was due to receive 318 of the machines, Evans told 11Alive News Tuesday night.  Four of the machines had been in use at the advance voting site at the Board of Elections office on Washington St. in downtown Athens.

Evans said the use of hand-marked paper ballots would begin on Wednesday.

The Clarke County board cited Cobb County's use of hand-marked paper ballots during municipal elections in November 2019 as its guide for conducting the March 24 presidential primary, and early voting leading up to it.

Evans cited the Georgia constitution, US law and state law requiring ballot secrecy and voter privacy.

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