State prepares for Nov. 2
New voting machines added in all 159 Georgia counties
By CARLOS CAMPOS
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/13/04
Georgia elections officials have deployed almost 1,000 new voting machines to counties throughout the state, hoping to cut down on long lines at the polls Nov. 2.
The decision to purchase an additional 955 touch-screen voting machines was made in anticipation of high voter turnout in the presidential election, said Chris Riggall, spokesman for Secretary of State Cathy Cox. Long lines were common during the 2000 presidential election in Georgia, when almost 70 percent of registered voters cast a ballot.
Recent efforts to register new voters — fueled by high interest in the presidential race — have helped add 460,000 Georgians to the rolls this year.
Riggall said the number of machines in a given precinct will not necessarily determine the time spent at the polls on Nov. 2. Other factors affect how much time voters spend at the polls, including the number of poll workers and their ability to sign in voters on Election Day. "It's not solely machines, but machines play a big part, too," Riggall said.
The new machines were purchased with $2.6 million in federal money made available to states through the 2002 Help America Vote Act. Cox orchestrated the $54 million purchase with HAVA money of almost 19,000 Diebold touch-screen machines for Georgia, first used in statewide in 2002.
At the time, elections officials aimed for a ratio of one machine per 200 voters in each county. Some counties, including DeKalb, Fulton and Forsyth, have purchased additional machines on their own, bringing down their ratios. Forsyth County, for example, has one machine per 106 voters, the lowest ratio in the state.
Thirteen counties got 12 new machines each in the recent round of purchases by the state, including Clayton, Coweta, Douglas, Newton, Paulding, Rockdale and Walton in metro Atlanta. The other counties that got 12 new machines are Camden, Emanuel, Floyd, Johnson, Troup and Walker. The rest of the counties got 10 or fewer machines, with all of the 159 counties getting at least three.
State officials say the optimal ratio of voters per machine is between 150 and 190 voters for each machine. Eight counties are still above the targeted ratio: Clayton, Coweta, Douglas, Newton, Paulding, Rockdale, Troup and Walton.
Annie C. Bright, director of the Clayton County Board of Registration and Elections, said she's confident the county can handle Election Day. The county recently bought 10 machines, Bright said. Those 10, along with the state's 12, bring Clayton's total to 475 machines.
I'm not too concerned about it," Bright said. "We would love to have more machines. You're always concerned about not having enough."
Bright said she expects the crowds Nov. 2 to be lessened by advance voting. Voters can cast a ballot during the five-day work week preceding Election Day.
In DeKalb County, officials have mailed notices to some residents that "the number of registered voters in your precinct is near capacity" and encouraging them to utilize advance voting.