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Georgia Governor Nixes Funding for Voter Check-In Upgrades

Gov. Brian Kemp has blocked $550,000 in state funds for tech intended to reduce wait times when voters check in at polls. Instead, that money would have to come from county governments during next year’s elections.

Georgia's state capitol in Atlanta.
Georgia's state capitol in Atlanta. (Susanne Pommer/Shutterstock)
(TNS) — Gov. Brian Kemp has blocked $550,000 in state funding for technology intended to reduce wait times when voters check in at their polling places.

Instead, money for the upgrades would have to come from county governments and their taxpayers during next year’s elections.

Kemp wrote in a message that accompanied his line-item vetoes Friday that the secretary of state’s office should disregard an item in the state budget calling for a statewide data plan to connect check-in tablets to a cellphone network. The Republican governor said local governments are responsible for data plan contracts for election equipment.

The connected tablets, called PollPads, reduced early voting check-in times by about a minute per voter during a test run last year, said Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer for the secretary of state’s office.

With the new early voting check-in process, poll workers can verify voter registration information and issue activation cards for voting touchscreens at the same time. Voters will no longer be required to fill out paper forms, hand them to one poll worker, then go to another station to receive a touchscreen activation card.

Some of the additional costs that will fall on local election offices are minimal, Sterling said. Network connections cost about $38 per early voting location, or roughly $12,000 for the entire state, Sterling said.

The bulk of the $550,000 in funding would have paid for tablet connections on election day, when many more polling places and tablets are needed. Election officials would be able to remotely monitor check-in times, slowdowns and technical difficulties.

The money would have funded initial costs of the data network during next year’s primary elections and runoffs, and then county governments would have been responsible for costs in the 2024 general election.

“We look at the resources allocated to do the best we can to get the best value for the voter experience,” Sterling said.

State Election Board member Sara Tindall Ghazal, a Democratic Party appointee, criticized Kemp’s budget decision.

“Nothing like stripping out funding for counties that would have made our elections more secure,” Ghazal wrote on Twitter.

© 2023 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.