Georgia’s elections hinge on increased poll workers, voting machines and ballot scannersElection day is coming soon! Early voting starts Oct. 12 at select locations and Election Day is Nov. 3. Credit: Maggie Lee
Sec. of State Raffensperger details Georgia’s plans, improvements to state’s election system
By Raisa Habersham
With the Nov. 3 election roughly a month away, Georgia is urging residents to vote early or by absentee ballot to decrease the number of voters waiting to cast ballots at the polls. But as Election Day nears, there is increased concern about how the state will ensure every vote will be counted and the efficiency of the voting process.
Learning lessons from the June 9 primary, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the state’s voting system has undergone improvements, including tweaking the absentee ballot counting process, to ensure election efficiency. Raffensperger spoke about the state’s plans Tuesday during a Q&A with The Atlanta Press Club.
The state also has an ambitious goal of adding 25,000 poll workers statewide, has increased their training requirements, and plans to add more voting machines and ballot scanners for what is expected to be a historical turnout.
“We have a very robust plan of action for the November election cycle,” Raffensperger said. Tuesday’s webinar also touched on how companies are helping the state with voting efforts.
Raffensperger largely focused on assuaging mail-in and in-person voting concerns, specifically worries about absentee ballot rejections. Earlier this month, the state lowered the sensitivity thresholds on ballot scanners “to provide greater leeway, and more accuracy in counting the votes cast on hand-marked absentee ballots,” Raffensperger said. “We also clarify the absentee ballot instructions to make it clear that voters should fill in the full oval in there.”
Recent concerns about exact match signatures also led the state to add a review process that allows residents to correct their ballot if it is rejected.
Raffensperger said residents who have an incomplete absentee ballot will receive a call or email from their respective county letting them know. Voters can also contact their county registrar to learn what their options are.
“To give you that opportunity as the voter to come and make sure we can verify that truly is you, that’s the way to make sure it’s secure and give people confidence in the system,” Raffensperger said.
He also urged residents to mail their ballots early. “It’s being easy on yourself as a voter,” he said, adding the sooner ballots are received the earlier counties can process them. “They can look at your signature, they can verify that, then they can begin the process before [Nov. 3].”
Counties can start scanning the ballots two weeks and a day before Election Day, but votes cannot be tabulated at that time.
“We don’t want that information to get out because that could then skew results,” Raffensperger said. “And then, all of a sudden, you could end up with people trying to game the system.”
Raffensperger also spoke on in-person voting and the state’s new voting machines, which were first used during the June 9 primaries. At that time, only 20 devices had equipment failure; other voting issues could be attributed to “user interface” concerns, Raffensperger said. He hopes to remedy that by adding one tech worker to each of the states 3,000 precincts in case there is equipment failure.
“We’d love to have more because it is a long day,” he said, adding ideally he’d like to have 5,000 tech workers statewide working at precincts on Election Day.
Aside from increased technical help, the state is prioritizing efforts to increase the number of voting machines and ballot scanners.
“We are projecting record turnout this fall. So, we dove headfirst into helping counties with poll worker and tech worker recruitment,” he said, adding the state is nearing its goal to hire 25,000 additional poll workers. The efforts are due in part to the state’s partnership with the Georgia Chamber and the United States Election Commission.
The state is also working with businesses to sponsor the cost of additional absentee ballot applications and ballot dropoff boxes. “We’re really grateful for that support,” Raffensperger said.
Early voting in the state begins Oct. 12. To find out where you’re registered, voters can visit the state’s My Voter Page.