New voting machines are being rolled out in six test markets across the state of Georgia. 

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who traveled to Lowndes County this week to unveil the machines, said the use of touch-screen technology will be augmented by a printed “paper ballot” at the end of the voting process. The machines are not connected to the internet. 

This marks the first voting system upgrade since 2002.

The new machines are not perfect, but they are certainly better. 

“Now, for the first time in 20 years when we have those close elections, we’ll be able to do a physical recount,” Raffensperger said. “We’ll be able to mathematically prove that the winner really won and the loser really lost.”

The state approved buying 30,000 new machines in July for a cost of $107 million. While only six counties will be testing the machines this fall, the goal is to have the whole state ready by the 2020 presidential election.

There is little doubt that Georgia’s 17-year-old voting machines are outdated and compromise the integrity of our electoral process.

That is why Gov. Brian Kemp set aside millions into the state budget to replace Georgia’s aging electronic voting machines. It is money that had to be spent to safeguard elections in our state. 

Previously this year, State Rep. John Corbett  said, “The machines you and I are used to voting on presented a problem — we couldn’t see our votes after they were cast.” Several lawmakers supported the notion of buying machines that generate an auditable paper trail so every voter can make sure the vote they cast is the vote they intended to cast.

Still, it must be said that safeguarding elections goes beyond purchasing new voting machines.  

While voting must be secure, it must also be accessible and fair to all. 

The Georgia Secretary of State is charged with organizing and overseeing Georgia elections. That includes everything from voter registration to the execution of municipal, state, county and federal elections. The SOS must certify the qualifications of candidates and maintain a statewide voter registration database and ensure that voter registration lists are current statewide.

It is also the Secretary of State’s responsibility to investigate election fraud and enforce state election laws. Politics should have no place in the oversight of our electoral process.

The General Assembly should do all that it can do to foster an environment for open, free and robust elections. 

While these new machines are a positive step in the right direction, once again it must be clearly said that Georgia’s “exact match” legislation has damaged Georgia elections and makes it harder, not easier, for legally, registered voters to cast a ballot in our state.

State lawmakers should have an open, candid, transparent, authentic public floor debate about exact match and explain to the people of Georgia just how it makes sense to potentially suppress votes over minor, insignificant variations in personal documents.

All lawmakers, regardless of party, should want everyone in Georgia who can legally register to vote in every election and should not do anything at all to discourage, dissuade or confuse would-be voters. 

CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is CNHI’s regional editor for its Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Texas newspapers and editor of The Valdosta Daily Times. He is vice president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. 

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