Georgia awards contract for new voting machines

Georgia awards contract for new voting machines
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Georgia awarded a $107 million contract to voting equipment manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems to implement a “verified paper ballot system” in the state prior to the March 2020 presidential primaries, the Georgia secretary of State’s office announced Monday.
 
This will involve replacing current voting machines in Georgia with machines from Dominion that print a paper ballot after the voter has made their choices to further secure the vote against outside interference.
 
The $107 million will be portioned out over the course of 10 years, with $89 million to be paid in the first two years and the rest going toward licensing fees and other recurring costs, the secretary of State's office told The Hill. The total awarded contract came in under budget, an aide said.
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Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) said in a statement that “elections security is my top priority,” adding that “we look forward to working with national and local elections security experts to institute best practices and continue to safeguard all aspects of physical and cyber-security in an ever-changing threat environment."
 
Raffensperger’s office said in a statement that the machines will be in place by March 24, 2020, the date of Georgia’s presidential preference primary. The Secretary of State’s office has already partnered with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and private cyber companies to improve election security in the state, with several Georgia counties working with DHS to provide security assessments of election offices. 

The new machines are being put in place after a new law in April that requires elections in Georgia to “be conducted with the use of scanning ballots marked by electronic ballot markers and tabulated by using ballot scanners for voting at the polls and for absentee ballots cast in person.” The electronic ballots markers are required to “produce paper ballots.” 

Dominion CEO John Poulous said in a statement that the company is “honored” to be chosen to implement the new machines.

“Election officials and voters alike can be assured that they are using the most modern, accessible and security-focused system on the market today, with paper ballots for every vote cast to ease auditing and ensure voter confidence in results,” Poulous said. 

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dominion was one of four voting machine companies, along with Election Systems & Software, Smartmatic and Hart InterCivic, to bid for the Georgia contract.

However, a lawsuit working its way through a U.S. District Court could force Georgia to use hand-marked paper ballots instead. In 2017, election integrity advocates and voters sued Georgia election officials for using voting systems since 2002 they saw as not secure, and calling on them to use paper ballots. Arguments were heard last week, with no timing announced on a ruling.

The announcement came less than a week after the Senate Intelligence Committee released the first volume of its bipartisan investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The election security-focused report found that all 50 states were targeted by Russian actors in some way, with Russian hackers gaining access to some election infrastructure in Illinois and another unnamed state.

Raffensperger discussed the findings of the report in a statement last week, listing the replacement of existing Georgia voting machines with those that print paper ballots as one way the state was shoring up election security ahead of 2020.

“We will continue to do everything necessary to protect our election from bad actors, both foreign and domestic,” Raffensperger said last week.

– This story was updated Aug. 1 at 11:57 a.m. to correct the total amount of the awarded contract and include additional info