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What concerns do local elections officials have with new voting machines?

Georgia will have new voting machines in 2020 but before they are used in Forsyth County, local elections officials have some concerns.

District 25 state Rep. Todd Jones, who represents south Forsyth and a small portion of north Fulton, was in attendance Tuesday morning at a meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Voter Registrations and Elections, where members of the board brought up some of their issues.

Joel Natt, a Republican member of the board, said the board had “some heartburn” with certain parts of House Bill 316, including language that requires one voting machine per 250 voters on election day. Natt said Forsyth County currently has about 164,000 registered voters but many of them vote before the actual election day.

“It doesn’t take into account if I go vote early, but the law reads cut and dry, ‘We will have machines for me on election day, even if I voted early,’” Natt said.

Natt estimated that for the Midway precinct, about half of voters would vote early.

Earlier this year, the Georgia General Assembly approved a $150 million purchase of new electronic touchscreen voting machines that print a paper ballot, which was unanimously supported by Jones and other members of Forsyth County’s legislative delegation.

Systems using electronic ballot markers include touchscreen computers where voters make their selections, then print a paper ballot that’s counted after being scanned. Setups from different vendors vary, but voter selections can either be spelled out in human-readable text, encoded in a barcode or both.

Matthew Blender, a Democratic member of the board, said he was also concerned with whether the electrical infrastructure of most polling places would be able to handle multiple machines, along with ballot markers and printers.

“I dare say in this county we would have a difficult time finding almost any of the facilities that we would use that would meet that one [machine] for every 250 voters; the space doesn’t exist, and the power doesn’t exist,” he said.

Jones is vice chair of the House’s government affairs committee, the committee that considered and approved HB316, and said the bill was heavily debated before it was passed. He said he would take back those concerns to members of the committee.

“I was aware of the issue regarding election day allocation,” Jones said. “I wasn’t aware of the issue on the electric; I’ll make sure that [comment] gets in.”