Jim Zachary: Secretary of State more open on voting snafus

There were some snags in yet another test run of Georgia's new multi-million dollar voting machines, not the least of which was a scanner that would not power up.

But, as it turns out, that tends to happen when you don't plug it in.

Seriously, the good news is that there were far fewer errors and few, if any, delays at the polls.

The better news is that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his office quickly identified the shortcomings and gave a rather detailed explanation of exactly what happened.

That level of transparency is of utmost importance as the state prepares for the March presidential primary.

The first test run of the voting system upgrade last year when six counties across the state used the Dominion voting machines was not good. In fact, in Lowndes County voting and counting the votes was delayed by hours and in the aftermath state officials were not very forthcoming about the breakdowns.

It seems some lessons have been learned both in the operation of the technology and in how to speak to the public about failures.

The $104 million Dominion paper-ballot voting machines and the people charged with ensuring proper use will need to work flawlessly for the March 24 presidential primary.

In the most recent special election, a handful of voter-access cards did not work as they were designed and the state said it was because a poll worker had been inserting the cards incorrectly. In another case, the state said 13 ballots were placed in an emergency ballot box when a ballot scanner lost power but it was later discovered it simply had not been plugged in.

Again, officials said none of the issues delayed polling places from opening on time or prevented anyone from voting, and that is a definite improvement over the initial roll out.

Still, continuing to emphasize that the missteps are human error, as if that does not matter as much as if it were electronic or mechanical failure, is shortsighted.

One of the primary responsibilities of the Secretary of State's office as well as local elections offices is to make sure that all officials, staff and poll workers are adequately trained on the new voting system.

The new Dominion system that generates a paper trail of votes cast may not have been the best choice and it certainly is pricey, but it is what we have and it is a definite improvement over what we had.

CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is the editor of the Valdosta Daily Times and president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

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