Kemp signs controversial bill replacing Georgia voting machines

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed into law a bill that will introduce touchscreen voting machines that print paper ballots even as Democrats warned the system was vulnerable to hacking.

Kemp signed the bill, previously passed by both the Georgia House and Senate largely on party lines, in private and without any previous public announcement, according to The Associated Press and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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The new machines replace Georgia's outdated equipment, which in 2018 led to long voter lines and widespread reports of malfunctions.

However, Democrats led by Stacey Abrams, the party's 2018 gubernatorial nominee, have opposed the new touchscreen machines, saying they are vulnerable to hacking.

Democrats have instead advocated for the use of paper ballots that are marked by hand as the most secure option.

The bill signed by Kemp also address issues with voting rules that Democrats have said could lead to vote suppression, including blocking county election officials from denying absentee ballots because of mismatched signatures alone.

The bill also does not allow counties to change polling places 60 days before a general or primary election and makes changes to when voters can be removed from voter registration lists, according to NPR and other media reports.

Abrams and Democrats claimed widespread irregularities in Georgia's heated 2018 gubernatorial race. Kemp was the state's secretary of state during the election.

Abrams lost narrowly in a state that has traditionally been heavily Republican but is now moderating, in part, because of an influx of new residents.  

She is now seen as a potential 2020 Democratic contender for the White House, though Abrams is also believed to be considering a challenge to Sen. David Purdue (R-Ga.).