Coweta County has received a few more pieces of its new voting equipment, and county and state officials were on hand recently at a voting demonstration.
The Georgia Secretary of State’s office and the Coweta Elections Office partnered to set up voting machines at a recent exposition in Newnan. However, not many people actually decided to try out the new voting technology, said Ashley Gay, Coweta assistant elections director.
“I thought we would have had more interest,” she said.
The new machines, which are “ballot marking devices," were also discussed at this week’s meeting of the Coweta Board of Elections and Registration, and two visitors to the meeting got to see a demonstration.
Voters start at the “poll pad,” which is an Apple iPad, where their driver’s licenses are scanned to bring up their voter registration information. If a voter presents an ID other than a driver’s license or state-ID with barcode, that information is entered manually by poll workers.
Voters will sign their voter certification on the poll pad’s touch screen, and poll workers will then use the poll pad to encode a plastic card that the voter will put into the ballot marking machine.
The test “election” that is being used by the state contains a number of questions about Georgia, from the state flower and state bird to previous capitals.
The different questions demonstrate different facets of the equipment. One question asks about Georgia’s former capitals, and “voters” can check up to four. If a voter doesn’t choose four, the machine indicates that the contest is “undervoted.”
When the voter who undervotes gets to the ballot review screen, there is a notice at the top stating “your ballot is valid, but there are warnings.” Then the warning is above the specific race that is undervoted.
Once the voter reviews the ballot on screen and is satisfied with it, the voter touches the “print” button and the paper ballot prints out on the printer attached to the voting machine.
The printed ballot states the voter’s selections and includes a “QR” code, similar to a bar code, with “QR” being the abbreviation of “quick response.”
Meeting visitor Cindy Pursley, who got to try out the machine Thursday, expressed some concern about the small type of the ballot.
Gay said plans are to have magnifying glasses available for voters who have issues reading the type. After a voter reviews the paper ballot, voters go to the centralized scanner and feed the ballot into the scanner.
Unless there are problems with the ballot, the ballot is read and cast automatically and drops into the secure ballot box that the scanner is attached to. While the paper ballot lists the voter’s selections in English, that’s not what the scanner reads.
Instead, the scanner reads the QR code, which contains the information, according to the secretary of state’s office.
The ballot box is large – nearly as big as a small garbage dumpster. The box has three compartments, according to Gay. One is for ballots that are read by the scanner with no problems.
If there is an issue with a ballot or it contains a write-in vote, it drops into a separate compartment. There is a third compartment that can be used if there is a scanner malfunction.
“If something happened and your scanner didn’t work temporarily, you would drop it in the emergency bin,” Gay said. That bin has to be unlocked to reveal the slot that the ballot can be dropped through.
Gay said elections officials don’t yet know when or where the ballots placed in the emergency slot would be counted. All those questions should be answered this week at the annual conference of the Georgia Association of Voter Registration and Election Officials.
More than 700 local and state elections officials are attending the conference, making it the largest conference of its kind, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.