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Curtains, 'wings' used to cloak ballots to enhance voter privacy

Fulton County is adding a metal container for the ballot marking computer and paper printer – to make them more secure and easier to use.

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Some Georgia counties are planning to add equipment that will enhance voter privacy in next month’s presidential primary.  

This is in light of issues raised by voters who believed their ballots weren’t secret while using the state's new bigger and brighter voter machines.

Fulton County took delivery of its new voting machines a few days ago. Unlike other counties, Fulton County is adding a metal container for the ballot marking computer and paper printer – to make them more secure and easier to use. 

The county’s election director, Rick Barron, said it will also help avert prying eyes in the precinct.

"If you’re standing in front of these with the screen in front of you, it does help with privacy," Barron said.

RELATED: Georgia voters, poll workers question privacy of new voting machines

During a special election Tuesday in south Georgia, voters told 11Alive that the touch screens of the state's new voting machines were highly visible inside voting precincts. We watched poll workers avert their eyes after voters settled in to vote.

"Somebody behind you could actually see how you were voting. Not that it would matter to me. But the privacy was not as much as before," said Carol West, after voting at a precinct in Dooly County.

"The only way you could really fix it would be if you had an enclosed booth," added Gloria Royal, after she'd voted in the Lilly fire station.

There may be other options – drawn from the history of voting.

A half century ago, voting machines were closet-sized pieces of metal. Voters would step inside, then pull a lever closing a curtain, hiding the voter and the ballot.

Last month during a special election in Mitchell County, election director Terry Ross told 11Alive News she erected curtains alongside balloting stations to help ensure voter privacy.

RELATED: How is the Iowa Caucus different from the Georgia Primary?

"I didn’t want anyone to feel like someone could see their choices on their ballots," Ross said. "It seemed to work pretty well."

Bernetta Chaney Childs ran this week’s special election in Dooly County, and said she'd heard complaints about privacy.  Asked if she could face the machines toward a wall, she said: "I don’t face them to a wall because I still want to be able to monitor what’s going on."

State law requires voting officials and the public to be able to observe voters. Voting officials have see voters to ensure that nobody tampers with the computerized machines.  

Officials said voters can’t be concealed like those in throwback voting machines, forcing officials to try to strike a balance between privacy, transparency and election security.


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