Georgia lawmakers push for state to update voting machines

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State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle plan to support legislation to update Georgia's aging voting machines.

Earlier this year, Representative Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs, filed House Bill 641, which would require that any new machines the state buys would have to print out paper "receipts" for voters.

"If there is a malfunction of any type or sort, the voter's going to be able to see right way, before their vote is actually cast that there's been a problem and they can fix it right there," explained Rep. Turner.

The idea has picked up steam and bi-partisan support as concerns grow over election hacking and accuracy in Georgia and across the country.

Just last week, the Coalition for Good Governance, a non-profit elections watchdog group based in Colorado, filed a lawsuit against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and others.  The suit seeks to overturn the results of the 6th Congressional District race between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff because they claim the voting machines could have been compromised.

The state currently has about 27,000 direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, which it began purchasing in 2002.

"How frequently do we update our iPhones or our computers?  Are any of us using systems from back in 2002?  I don't think so," said State Representative Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta.  "And that's the system that we're using for our voting?  It's insane.  It's time to fix it."

Rep. Holcomb hopes lawmakers can pass legislation and the state can secure a contract for replacement of the machines in time for the statewide elections in November 2018.

"I can't really see any legitimate opposition to what we're trying to do," said Rep. Holcomb.  "This is a system that we know can be accessed, we know it can be hacked and there is no way that we can ensure that each vote is counted without moving to a system that provides for lack of a better term, a receipt that the voters can look at."

Replacing all those machines would likely cost tens of millions of dollars.

"Any cost for updating the technology that adds confidence to our electoral system is justified in the confidence that we have with the results," said Rep. Turner.

Holcomb said he hopes the federal government would pitch in to cover some of the cost of the upgrades.

Lawmakers have time to work out the details of the plan before the legislative session starts in January.