FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County Voter Registrations and Elections is gearing up for the 2020 Georgia Presidential Primary Mar. 24.

Although new voting machines have not arrived, Mandi Smith, Voter Registration and Elections director, estimates 600 of the Dominion Voting System units will be on-hand and ready for use. Each machine will have undergone state acceptance testing prior to delivery. Before use in an upcoming election, the machines will go through additional testing to maintain efficiency and security. 

Much hype has been given to the machines, and 9,031 voters in six pilot counties — Bartow, Carroll, Catoosa, Decatur, Lowndes and Paulding — used them in Nov. 2019 elections.

The overall process is the same simple method as before, but now voters will have an additional step of scanning a paper ballot. Printed ballots will include bar codes that encode voters’ choices for tabulation by scanning machines. The printed text of voters’ choices will be used for recounts and audits.

Voters check in by handing a government-issued photo ID to the poll worker who will scan it. The same forms of identification (driver’s license, military ID, passport, etc.) are still acceptable. Voters will notice that instead of a laptop, the poll worker will be using a “poll pad” (an iPad). Basic information (name, address, date of birth) will appear on the screen and, if correct, is confirmed by the voter with a signature on the poll pad using the stylus

After completing the identification process, the poll worker will issue a voting card, similar to the yellow voting cards used in previous elections. Voters will be directed to a private voting station where they will cast ballots on a touchscreen with a printer. Inserting a voting card (which contains a ballot) into the bottom of the touchscreen begins the selection process. The touchscreen prompts voters through the ballot, and voters will use their finger to indicate candidate preference. At the end of the process, voters will be given the opportunity to review their selections. Instead of pressing “cast ballot,” like before, voters will press “print” and have a paper copy of their ballot generated within their voting station

At this point voters are encouraged to thoroughly read their ballot to ensure it reflects their choices. Voters will then remove their voting card from their touchscreen and head to the polling place scanner. Once inserted in the scanner, the paper ballot is officially cast, Smith said. 

Voting cards are handed to a poll worker. 

The voting cards won’t pop out like they did with previous machines, nor will there be buzzers or warning beep reminders. However, trained poll workers will be available for questions and to ensure voting cards and papers aren’t left behind. 

Each county will have a Dominion Voting System technician on hand during voting, including advance voting.

The state has financed the $107 million voting system and the county is responsible for providing the thicker security paper and toner for the printer. 

Once tabulated, ballots will be sealed and stored for two years at the clerk of courts office and then shredded.

Election results may take a bit longer as poll workers navigate the nuances and new procedures. 

Over 300 poll workers have had preliminary training and will soon have equipment-based training, Smith said. 

“We are planning for additional poll workers because of the new [scanner] station,” Smith said. “We will have plenty of people to educate voters through the process.”

Voters can watch a video at SecureVoteGa.com to familiarize themselves with the equipment.

Denise Ray is a Reporter with Appen Media Group and covers Forsyth county.

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