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Despite popularity for computerized voting, some lawmakers seeking to bring back paper-ballots

Popular system scrutinized by tech experts who say it's vulnerable to hackers.

LILBURN, Ga. — After Tuesday, Georgia voters will get a break from elections and runoffs. But state lawmakers are likely to introduce bills to eliminate the state’s computerized voting system, replacing it with something more analog, like paper ballots.

It was 20 years ago when Georgia first switched from paper ballots to computerized voting. Though there is a growing call to switch back, voters said they kind of like the computers.

Kenneth Ash, a Gwinnett County voter, said he did like the computers after he early-voted last week. Ash was among the legions of folks using Georgia’s Dominion voting system.

"Computers are fine," William Hill said after he voted in DeKalb. "I don’t see any problem with the computer voting." 

State officials said computerized voting is popular and safe – with an auditable printed paper ballot – that also has a bar code that gets scanned and tallied by another computer.

Yet this spring, a handful of primary election candidates -- Republican, Democrat and Libertarian -- called for the state to use hand-marked paper ballots instead of Dominion computers. It reflected concerns raised by cybersecurity experts about their vulnerability to hackers.

"If you look at the series of breaches, global breaches of cybersecurity systems over the last two years... it's where some vulnerability in a system was ignored," Dr. Rich deMillo, chair of Georgia Tech's College of Cybersecurity, told 11Alive News this fall. "There’s a reason that cybersecurity is the fastest growing profession in the world."

Those concerns heightened when an election official in Coffee County allegedly allowed folks connected to the Trump campaign to scan secure Dominion software last year.

Computerized voting has lost popularity nationwide.

Ten years ago, only 37% of voters in America were using hand marked paper ballots. By last spring, that grew to 67%, according to verifiedvoting.org Georgia is among a dozen states that still largely rely on computer software to handle balloting.

"It’s at least worth scrutiny," Carl Shelly said, who was among the Gwinnett voters who sees election computers and sees vulnerability.

"I don’t even use my credit card online and I’ve had my credit card stolen four times," Shelly said. "So its not like they can’t hack things."

But voters, who sometimes spend hours in line at polling sites, seek convenience once they get to the ballot.

"Back when the [2000] presidential election – when they had hanging chads and all that, no. I think the system they have right now is really good. I like it. I like it a lot," Gwinnett voter Kim Clark stated.

Going one step further, Ash said he'd prefer to vote on his phone.

Hand marked paper ballots are expected to have some bipartisan support in next year’s legislative session. The question is whether it’ll be enough to actually change Georgia’s voting system.

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