Election debacles: A closer look at Georgia’s voting system

Published by Tucker Bedingfield on

Election debacles: A closer look at Georgia's voting system

On June 9, 2020, Georgia held their primary election, which opened at 7 a.m. Complications included technology issues, insane wait times, faulty or late mail-in ballots, less available locations and understaffed voting precincts.

Before elections even began, 44 polling locations were pulled and 300 poll workers dropped due to COVID-19By 7:10 a.m. Nekima Williams, District 39 State Senator and chairwoman for the Georgia Democratic Party (GDP), stated that she had already received over 84 emails and texts from counties across the state having voting issues.

Notorious for its past election flaws, Fulton County ran into issues with a lack of knowledge on how to work the new voting machines. Experts warned against the new voting machines Georgia invested in. One warning was that it would be too busy of an election to implement a new voting system, and the lack of experience with them would lead to a debauched election day. 

And that is exactly what happened. In Old Fourth Ward, there was a polling location that didn’t even have the passwords to open the voting machines.

Clayton County ran out of Democratic provisional ballots by 10 a.m.

There were many reports of missing absentee ballots, and even absentee ballots already being sealed upon arrival.

We attempted to contact the Georgia Commissioner’s office as well as Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on several occasions since late July, but neither gave a response or addressed our requests to interview for clarification. 

It’s obvious that Georgia has some work to do. So how can we remedy these issues?

The first step in finding a solution to our election problems is understanding the voting process, at least this way we can understand who’s responsible for what. Georgia’s voting laws can be really difficult to understand, mostly due to its nebulous systems and obscure rules as to who or what is in charge of anything.

Election responsibility is split between the Secretary of State’s office and the county elections division. So since responsibility is split, who holds what responsibilities?

Amanda Funger | Avant-Youth

The first step in the voting process is registration. When it comes to registration, you the voter are ultimately in charge of making sure you can vote in time for the upcoming election. No one will track you down to make sure you can vote come November when the general election is held.

You have to meet a few requirements to be eligible to vote in Georgia. 

  1. You must be a citizen of Georgia.
  2. You must be 18 by the time of the election, but you can register at 17.5 years old.
  3. You must not have been found mentally incompetent by the court, unless it has been revoked.
  4. You must not be serving a felony sentence for moral turpitude. This is defined as “conduct that shocks the public conscience” by the Supreme Court case Chu v. Cornell.

What you, the voter, is responsible for

Once you meet the requirements to vote, the Secretary of State’s office then processes the paperwork. Georgia’s current Secretary of State is Brad Raffensperger; if elections were a business, he’d be the CEO. Which means ultimately, he should assume responsibility for any mishaps on election day.

From there, we head to the polls. At the polls, you’re in charge of providing a photo ID to vote. This can be a license, passport, or government issued ID card. 

After producing your government issued ID, the poll worker at the check in table will scan your ID. The machine will then give you a voter card.

After you receive your voter card, you will scan it at the voting machine. The voting machine will then pull up the voter page. From there, you will cast your ballot, and the machine will print your selected candidates.

Once you have your printed voting choices, you take the paper and scan it. Once your paper has been scanned, your ballot is casted and your vote is counted.

Polling locations, machines & poll worker training

Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) § 21-2-90 states that the superintendent of the county/precinct is in charge of choosing polling locations, and ensuring that they are accessible to the county’s inhabitants. The county officials are also responsible for ensuring they have enough poll workers to run an efficient election.

The Secretary of State is responsible for voting machines, as well as ensuring that all poll workers are trained and educated in the voting process and procedures. Voting machines are distributed by county population.

The Secretary of State is also responsible for ensuring the poll workers know how to work said voting machines. What this means is that usually an expert from the machine manufacturers will come in and train the county precinct staff on how to work the machines.

Amanda Funger | Avant-Youth

After the difficult time Georgia precincts had during the primaries, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has stated that he has intentions of adding 25,000 poll workers to serve as a “bench” in case of emergency, like contracting COVID-19. 

The county is in charge of requesting supplies, like absentee ballots and paper ballots in case of malfunction. That being said, the Secretary of State’s office is in charge of processing those requests and providing the supplies needed. 

O.C.G.A § 21-2-384 states that when it comes to absentee ballots, the county is in charge of ensuring that all absentee ballots are sent out on time and correctly. The county appoints an absentee ballot clerk. The clerk will send out absentee ballots are sent out not more than 49 days but not less than 45 days to those who have requested them. Individuals do not need to provide a reason for requesting an absentee ballot right now.

For the mass influx of absentee ballot voting this year, the Secretary of State’s office has issued absentee ballot drop boxes across the state. This was done in attempt to remedy fear of ballots being lost in the mail. The drop boxes are located on government property. For security, they are being monitored by 27/4 video surveillance and securely bolted to the ground.

From there, the ballots are counted. Typically, they are counted by the ballot machine, which is referred to as a DRE- direct recording electronic system of counting. When paper ballots have to be used, the votes are counted a bit differently. There is another machine that can scan paper ballots. The data is then sent from the county’s database to the Secretary of State’s office

Amanda Funger | Avant-Youth

In regards to voting, it’s important for you to know when it’s time to take action. Important dates to remember are:

  • The general election will be held on November 3rd.
  • The last day to register to vote in Georgia is October 5th.
  • Early voting begins October 12th.
  • Absentee voting must be received by the county by November 2nd to be counted.

And don’t forget, every vote matters. If you want to see real political change, we can tell you why your vote matters.

It is also important to stay informed.

For information on presidential candidates, take a look at Avant-Youth’s presidential Candidates in Review.

To register to vote, you can visit https://georgia.gov/registervote.

BallotTrax is a new service launched in Georgia that allows voters to track their absentee ballots.

For information on the Secretary of State’s office, you can visit www.sos.ga.gov. You’ll be able to find election results, his contact information, voter information and candidate information.

While Georgia has a lot to work out before November, make sure you don’t. Get out there and vote.

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Tucker Bedingfield

Tucker Bedingfield is a senior at Kennesaw State University, studying journalism and emerging media. She can usually be found buried in her laptop, coffee in hand, or at the local record shop (coffee still in hand). Bedingfield has had a passion for writing since high school and likes to use her writing skills to tell stories of other people. She is a firm believer that everyone has a fascinating story to share, it’s just a matter of asking the right questions.