ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
85°
Partly Cloudy
H 87° L 66°
  • cloudy-day
    85°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 87° L 66°
  • cloudy-day
    87°
    Today
    Partly Cloudy. H 87° L 66°
  • cloudy-day
    82°
    Tomorrow
    Partly Cloudy. H 82° L 60°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

State & Regional Govt & Politics
Many cities stick with paper ballots as Georgia buys new machines
Close

Many cities stick with paper ballots as Georgia buys new machines

Many cities stick with paper ballots as Georgia buys new machines
August 29, 2019, 2019 - Chattahoochee Hills - Dana Wicher with a sample ballot of the type used in their city elections, along with their ballot box. She is the city clerk and is in charge of elections in Chattahoochee Hills, a city that formed in 2007 and uses paper ballots as a cost-saving measure. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com

Many cities stick with paper ballots as Georgia buys new machines

The 2,271 people eligible to vote in Chattahoochee Hills may feel like they’re stepping back in time whenever they cast a ballot for the City Council or mayor.

In much of the rest of the state, electronic voting machines are standard for each and every election. But in Chattahoochee Hills and about 70 other cities, residents vote using paper ballots. In many of those cities, the votes are even tallied by hand.

On election night in Chattahoochee Hills, residents can pile into City Hall to watch City Clerk Dana Wicher and a handful of poll workers open a locked metal ballot box and call out the names on each ballot. Like keeping score at a baseball game, they can even tally along.

As the debate rages over whether Georgia’s new touchscreen-and-printed-ballot voting system is secure, voters in cities across the state will continue to fill out their ballots with pens this November. They won’t use any modern technology during their municipal elections. State law exempts cities from having to use the uniform voting system mandated for county, state and federal elections.

“Folks like coming in and doing the paper ballots. It’s that old-town community feeling,” Wicher said. “There is some suspense. There’s probably more transparency with the paper system.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
On election night for municipal contests in Chattahoochee Hills, poll workers tally the votes by opening a metal ballot box and calling out the names on each paper ballot. Residents watch and keep track of the counts on their own. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com
Close

Many cities stick with paper ballots as Georgia buys new machines

Photo Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
On election night for municipal contests in Chattahoochee Hills, poll workers tally the votes by opening a metal ballot box and calling out the names on each paper ballot. Residents watch and keep track of the counts on their own. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com

Most of the state’s 7 million registered voters have been using electronic voting machines each election since 2002, when they were billed as a solution to the problems of hanging chads and uncertain results in the wake of the 2000 presidential election between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore. But many cities never made the change, either because the cost was too high or because the systems they had in place worked just fine.

While paper ballots might seem antiquated to some voters, those in small and medium-size cities are accustomed to pen-and-paper voting. More than 70% of voters nationwide use some form of paper ballot, according to Verified Voting, a national election integrity organization.

Residents in six Georgia cities will even use mechanical lever machines during November’s elections. Those machines have been known to occasionally fail to record votes, and they lack the kind of paper trail provided by paper ballots. But they also avoid the risks of hacking inherent to computerized voting systems.

Kristi Ash, the elections superintendent in Loganville, said she expects this election will be the last one where residents vote on such machines. While they’re relatively reliable, she said only two people in the state know how to program the machines, and they are getting older. Residents often ask whether the city ever plans to update its technology.

Still, Ash said she’ll miss the ease of counting — it takes longer to open the machines than it does to add the ballots together — and the confidence it instills in Loganville’s roughly 8,000 registered voters.

Close

Many cities stick with paper ballots as Georgia buys new machines

“With the voting machine, there’s no doubt in somebody’s mind what they voted for,” she said. “It’s very straightforward. With a computer, there’s doubt.”

Supporters of paper ballots say they reduce the risk of election hacking.

Votes can’t be changed digitally when they’re recorded by touching a pen to a piece of paper. City election officials say they prevent ballot-box stuffing by ensuring that the number of checked-in voters matches the number of ballots cast.

Chattahoochee Hills resident Vernice Armour said she feels better with paper ballots than she does with voting machines.

“If something’s gone wrong with it, how do you even know?” she asked.

Ailleen Nakamura, a Sandy Springs voter and election integrity advocate, said she thinks paper ballots are the only solution.

Hand-marked paper ballots are the best technology we can use for safe and secure voting,” she said.

Not everyone agrees. Victoria Adair, a Chattahoochee Hills voter, said she doesn’t feel comfortable dropping her ballot in a locked box because she said the poll workers often aren’t neutral arbiters in local elections.

“I don’t really feel it’s safe and secure,” she said. “It’s harder for someone to change a computer ballot than a paper ballot.”

She has powerful company in state Sen. Jeff Mullis, a Chickamauga Republican who thought he won his first election to the state Senate, in 1998, by 23 votes. But when election officials conducted a recount, they found 151 additional paper ballots, with just six of those new votes being cast for Mullis.

“I am totally 100% against a handwritten paper ballot. It can be fraudulently done in a back room somewhere and added to the ballot box,” said Mullis, the chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee. “I’m glad we got the electronic machines because I think they’re very trustworthy.”

Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
March 5, 2019 - Atlanta - Senator Jeff Mullis, sponsored SB 77, which provides protections for government statues, monuments, plaques, banners, and other commemorative symbols. The legislature was in session for the 27th day of the 2019 General Assembly. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com
Close

Bill protecting state monuments clears Georgia Senate

Photo Credit: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
March 5, 2019 - Atlanta - Senator Jeff Mullis, sponsored SB 77, which provides protections for government statues, monuments, plaques, banners, and other commemorative symbols. The legislature was in session for the 27th day of the 2019 General Assembly. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

Mullis won election two years later by more than 3,000 votes, and he’s been in the state Senate ever since. He voted in March in favor of Georgia’s new voting system, which is scheduled to be rolled out statewide in time for the March 24 presidential primary.

With the $107 million voting system, voters will make their choices on electronic voting machines, as they do now. Those touchscreen machines will be connected to printers that will produce a paper ballot, which voters can review before inserting into optical scanners for tabulation.

Elections superintendents in several cities that use paper ballots said they don’t have strong opinions about the new machines. But a number expressed happiness with the systems they have — in some cases, because of cost savings; in others, because of the ease of managing elections. Many will continue to use paper ballots for city elections, even once the new technology is available.

“We haven’t had a desire to change,” Acworth City Clerk Regina Russell said. “It does save on costs in terms of what the county charges us for an election.”

In Chattahoochee Hills, it cost $1,800 to run city elections in 2017; the cost to contract with Fulton County this fall would have been $6,722.

Buford Election Superintendent Kim Wolfe said she’s never given a thought to anything but paper ballots, while Pat Chapman, the deputy city administrator in Berkeley Lake, said there’s no reason to invest in new hardware when only a few hundred of the city’s 1,500 registered voters cast ballots each election.

“It may never make sense to go to any machine-counted ballot,” Chapman said.

Eric Beckman, the qualifying officer for Lake City’s elections, said it’s not cost-effective to rent machines for about 150 voters who might turn out.

“We have some people who ask us to go to the electronic machines because it makes the counting go faster,” said Beckman, who oversees elections in the Clayton County city. “It’s not cost-effective for the city to go through the purchase and training for it. It’s just a check box — you check it and that’s it.”

The speed of counting may eventually overtake the cost savings in Chattahoochee Hills, Wicher said.

After all, paper ballots can be cumbersome in small towns like hers, with just a few poll workers.

It takes until after midnight to count a few hundred votes, and as the city grows, it might be easier to hire the county to run municipal elections on voting machines, she said. This year might be the last time Chattahoochee Hills voters mark their ballots with a pen.

“It’s getting overwhelming,” Wicher said. “I trust the state’s new system. It’s probably not going to be feasible to continue doing it this way. People want those instant results these days.”

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at www.ajc.com/politics.

Read More

News

  • A woman who reportedly befriended R. Kelly on a cruise and paid $100,000 for his bail five months later wants her money back. The Chicago Sun-Times reported Valencia Love put up the money for the bail in February after the R&B singer was in Cook County Jail for three days. His bail was set at $1 million after he pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. >> Read more trending news  Love paid the 10 percent required, and he was freed, but he has since been back in prison on separate sex crime allegations in federal court, WBBM reported. Now she wants the money back, and her lawyer, John Collins, filed a four-page motion Friday seeking its return, The Sun-Times reported. 'There’s been a substantial change of circumstances,' Collins said, according to WBBM. 'In this instance, he’s held no bond, so the purposes of the bond are frustrated in Illinois.' Collins also argued that Love had no idea there were other investigations into Kelly before she posted the 10 percent bail bond, and now that he is being held without bail on separate federal sex crime charges 'there’s no need to have her money sitting in deposit.' But Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood denied the request Tuesday, saying it had no legal basis and Love signed the bail bond slip, which warned that she could lose the money because a judge might order that the money used to pay his attorney’s fees, fines or other expenses. According to the Sun-Times, Love wants the money to go toward those expenses. She told the publication the money was a loan because Kelly was in jail on the weekend and couldn't access his account, which only he has authority to access. “Why is it such a big deal? He’s already locked up,' she said. 'Why can’t the bail money be returned?' At the Tuesday hearing, Flood also denied a motion to increase Kelly's bond to $1 million. The federal indictment of Kelly in Chicago includes nine counts of enticing a minor, three counts of child pornography and one count of obstruction of justice.Kelly also has federal cases in New York and Minnesota, WGN reported.
  • A 13-year-old boy suffered injuries when he was struck Wednesday morning by a car in South Carolina while he was walking his little sister to a bus stop, police said. >> Read more trending news  Police said the incident happened after dispatchers started to get calls around 7 a.m. about a Chrysler PT Cruiser and a silver sedan that appeared to be involved in a road rage situation near the intersection of Rutherford Road and Wade Hampton Boulevard in Greenville. Police said near the intersection of North Pleasantburg Drive and Mallory Road, the driver of the PT Cruiser lost control and drove onto the sidewalk, striking the 13-year-old. The boy was thrown into the roadway, officials said. His sister was not injured. Authorities said the boy was conscious after the incident. He was taken to a medical facility for evaluation and treatment of his injuries. His condition was not immediately known. The driver of the PT Cruiser was taken to a medical facility with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening. The driver of the other vehicle involved in the suspected road rage incident left the scene before authorities arrived. Authorities continued work Wednesday to identify the driver. The collision also damaged power lines, causing an outage, police said.
  • A police officer in western Pennsylvania is facing charges that he used his position to have unwanted sexual contact with a woman, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Wednesday. >> Read more trending news  The incident in which Dustin Devault, 47, is accused happened while he served as an officer in Monongahela, officials said. He now works as a part-time officer with the Forward Township Police Department and as a police officer for Highmark. Authorities said the sexual assault is alleged to have happened in a police vehicle while Devault was on duty. Devault allegedly first met the woman in the summer of 2018 during a traffic stop, a grand jury found. The two met and texted several times afterward. The woman told authorities it was her understanding that Devault was going to help her become a police officer and seek treatment for a loved one who was suffering from substance use, according to investigators. On one occasion that the two met, Devault allegedly showed up in full uniform in an unmarked car. While in the car, the woman claims Devault inappropriately touched her several times and repeatedly asked her to have sex with him. 'When you are in that situation, you just freeze. You don't know what to do. He has a gun on him. He is a police officer. And I'm just a female. I just wanted to survive that moment,' the woman said during her testimony to the grand jury. The grand jury found Devault lied to his superiors in the Monongahela Police Department -- where he was removed from his position -- about his interactions with the woman and encouraged a co-worker to also lie. Devault is charged with indecent assault, official oppression and obstructing the administration of law or other governmental functions.
  • A Maine fisherman was stunned Tuesday when he pulled in his fresh catch of lobster from York Harbor. >> Read more trending news  Josh O’Brien told WSCH-TV he found a baby claw growing out of a lobster’s normal claw. “Out of all the thousands of lobsters we catch every week and everything we've caught so far this year, this is only the second of its kind we've seen,” O'Brien said.  The lobsterman cautioned against allowing the unusual growth to turn stomachs, telling WSCH the lobster is fine to eat.  “It's neat to see something like this out of the ordinary and keeps things interesting on the boat.”
  • A Maine woman is accused of rubbing fentanyl residue on her 1-year-old daughter's gums to help her sleep, which caused the child's death nearly a year ago, according to court documents. >> Read more trending news  Kimberly Nelligan, 33, of Bangor, was arrested Tuesday and charged with endangering the welfare of a child., the Bangor Daily News reported. Nelligan also faces a misdemeanor drug charge, WMTW reported. According to court documents, Nelligan had also used fentanyl on her older children. Nelligan called police Oct. 10, 2018, to report her baby was not breathing, the Daily News reported. First responders performed CPR on the child and took her to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead, WCSH reported. According to detectives, the state medical examiner's office determined the cause of death was from probable toxic effects of fentanyl, WMTW reported. In a police affidavit, the baby’s father told detectives he had seen Nelligan rub the residue of the drug on her daughter’s gums about 15 times, the Daily News reported. Nelligan allegedly told the father she had done the same thing to her two older children when they were babies, according to the affidavit. She insisted she was not trying to injure the child. “You know I didn’t hurt our daughter on purpose,” Nelligan allegedly said to the father, according to the affidavit. Nelligan was taken to the Penobscot County Jail, WCSH reported. She is being held without bond, the television station reported.
  • The anti-gun violence group Sandy Hook Promise Foundation released a public service announcement Wednesday showing students using ordinary back-to-school items to protect themselves from an active shooter. The chilling video shows smiling children talking about their new school items until the scene switches to students using new shoes to run from a shooter, a boy using a new skateboard to bust out a window to escape gunfire, and, the most heart-wrenching, a girl hiding in the bathroom texting her mother that she loves her. >> Read more trending news  The Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, which has called for bans on weapons and the sale of large amounts of ammunition, grew out of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-six people were shot and killed – 20 children and six adults. The foundation warned viewers that the video is disturbing and explained in a press release why they produced it. “So far this year there have been over 22 school shootings, and with students heading back to school, it seems sadly probable that we will see more incidents. This is unacceptable, given that we have proven tools to prevent these acts from occurring. We cannot accept school shootings as the new normal in our country,” the press release read. “Our goal with this PSA is to wake up parents to the horrible reality that our children endure. Gone are the days of viewing back-to-school as just a carefree time, when school violence has become so prevalent. However, if we come together to know the signs, this doesn’t have to be the case. I hope that parents across the country will join me to make the promise to stop this epidemic,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, in the press release. Hockley’s son, Dylan, was killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting. The PSA is below. Warning: Some people may find the contents disturbing.