Chatham Co. gets first look at new voting machines

Chatham Co. gets first look at new voting machines

CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - It won’t be too long until voters are hitting the polls for the 2019 municipal elections in the Coastal Empire.

Pooler residents were promised more polling locations after the 2018 election kept them in long lines waiting for hours.

The state of Georgia bought 30,000 new voting machines this year for more than $100 million. Monday, Chatham County’s Board of Elections and Rep. Ron Stephens got their first look. Despite the state paying for the original cost, the county will pay for upkeep.

“One significant expense just for example if I were to buy a toner cartridge for each of the 815 ballot marking stations - a long term toner cartridge retail price is 200 hundred dollars. That’s 160,000 for one toner cartridge for each unit,” Chatham Co. Board of Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges said.

Like the county's existing machines, voters will pick their candidates on touch screen machines. But after making their choices, they'll print the finished ballot. Voters will have to scan the full-page ballot before inserting them in a locked box for recounts.

These machines are a pretty penny and so is the paper.

“Paper we are required to buy from approved vendors. It is a special paper it cost 13 cents a sheet, so let’s take last November. 100,000 ballots, that’s $13,000-worth of paper,” Bridges said.

Voters will not see these machines until the March 2020 presidential primary. Pooler voters won't see any relief until then either.

“There is going to be a record turnout. Pooler is going to be hit hard,” Chatham County voter Rick Ellison said.

With almost 25,000 people living in Pooler, there are just three polling locations. Chatham County Board of Elections says they are making plans to add two polling locations and precincts to Pooler, but they are still looking for one more location. Chatham County residents came to the meeting to get updates.

“There are not enough polling places at some of the locations. Pooler has really had a serious problem. People waiting in line for hours and hours. It’s our right to vote,” Chatham County voter Linda Sharples said.

With one of the two polling locations secured, most of the board is confident they'll find the second before next month's meeting - when they vote to add the precincts. Others think if they can't meet the March deadline, it could be another year before more Pooler locations are added.

“We need several options very quickly and we need to get them going, because we can’t put people in Pooler back through what we put them through last year,” Debbei Rauers, with the Chatham Co. Board of Elections, said.

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