Bipartisan Bill to Allow Voting At Any County Precinct

Georgia House Bill 26, a bipartisan effort sponsored by four Democrats and two Republicans, could allow citizens the ability to vote at any precinct in their county, if their election superintendent decides to allow them to and certain requirements are met.

The bill has garnered the support of Better Georgia, which has issued a petition that allows citizens to show their support for the measure that they believe will make voting easier in Georgia.

The entire bill can be seen after the break, but the major crux of the bill is that the election superintendent must:

  1. make the decision whether to allow the county citizens the ability to vote at any precinct;
  2. provide adequate and timely notification to the citizens and the Secretary of State;
  3. implement measures to prevent a voter from voting at multiple precincts; and
  4. ensure that there are adequate workers, machines, and ballots at each precinct to handle the voters.

I like the idea behind the bill, as it would be great to have the ability to choose a convenient precinct to vote at instead of just one particular location. However, I fully understand the difficulty, at least initially, of forecasting where voters will decide to vote when given a choice and the challenge of ensuring that demand loads can be met.

For example, Bulloch County varied widely from 199 voters at the Sinkhole precinct in the 2014 General Election to 2,083 voters at the Fair Precinct. While it may be presumed that most voters would probably continue to go to their current precinct, there is the chance that a precinct may be unexpectedly overwhelmed. I could only imagine the potential troubles if the numbers were reversed in the example.

I am also mentally debating the fact that the final decision is to be made by the election superintendent. I am not typically in support of one person making a decision for an entire county, but I am also cognizant of the fact that they would be responsible for any election day issues.

I believe it would be prudent to garner feedback over the next year from citizens, election superintendents, and local government officials from all across Georgia before possibly bringing the bill to the floor in 2016. We do not need a good idea to turn into a disastrous one.

House Bill 26
By: Representatives Bruce of the 61st, Brooks of the 55th, Williams of the 168th, Pruett of the 149th, Marin of the 96th, and others

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT

To amend Part 1 of Article 11 of Chapter 2 of Title 21 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to general provisions regarding preparation for and conduct of primaries and elections, so as to provide that the election superintendent of a county may permit any elector of the county to vote in any precinct of the county which such elector chooses in a primary, election, or runoff under certain conditions; to provide for certain notices; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA:

SECTION 1.

Part 1 of Article 11 of Chapter 2 of Title 21 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to general provisions regarding preparation for and conduct of primaries andelections, is amended by adding a new Code section to read as follows:

21-2-420.
(a) Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter to the contrary, the election superintendent of a county may permit any elector of the county to vote in any precinct of the county which such elector chooses in a primary, election, or runoff, provided that the conditions of this Code section are met.

(b) Prior to choosing to implement subsection (a) of this Code section, the election superintendent shall ensure that:

(1) Sufficient safeguards are in place to protect against an elector voting more than once in the same primary, election, or runoff;
(2) A sufficient number of ballots of each ballot style used in the county are available at each precinct polling place to accommodate electors who may choose to vote at such polling place;
(3) If DRE voting equipment is to be used at such polling places, a sufficient number of DRE voting units are available at each polling place to accommodate the potential number of electors which may vote at such polling place; and
(4) Sufficient poll workers are available at each polling place to accommodate the potential number of electors who may vote at such polling place.

(c) The election superintendent shall make the determination of whether to allow the electors of the county to vote in any precinct of the county at least 30 days prior to a primary or election and shall notify the Secretary of State in writing of such decision at least 30 days before the primary or election. The election superintendent shall notify the electors of such decision by posting prominent notices in the election superintendent’s office and on each polling place in the county. In addition, the election superintendent shall advertise the decision in the legal organ of the county once a week for two weeks immediately preceding the primary or election. If the election superintendent decides to allow the electors of the county to vote in any precinct of the county in a primary or election, such decision shall also apply to any runoff of such primary or election.

(d) The State Election Board shall be authorized to promulgate rules and regulations to implement the provisions of this Code section.

SECTION 2.
All laws and parts of laws in conflict with this Act are repealed.

13 comments

  1. FranInAtlanta says:

    My first thought was “This is a really good idea.” I would have loved to be able to vote closer to my workplace (not in my county) back in the day. Then I realized that there is a real possibility that those voting places on the edge of a county would likely be overwhelmed.
    My next thought, as I read more of the article, was that voters who wish to claim discrimination with pictures of long lines might deliberately overwhelm a small precinct.
    So I don’t support what sounds like a really good idea.

  2. benevolus says:

    “voters who wish to claim discrimination with pictures of long lines”

    Jeez, and I thought I was cynical.

  3. Will Durant says:

    Come up with a bi-partisan bill to go with open primaries followed by top two in the general and then I will be impressed. This bill would likely increase the opportunity for fraud and would still require most voters having to trek to the polls 4 times per cycle.

  4. Joseph says:

    It sounds like the technology is capable of handling voting outside one’s precinct based on Early voting capacity now, however – provisional ballots could be a challenge as every precinct (not just a few early voting locations) would be required to maintain copies of every possible combination of ballot across the county.

    I do wonder what would prevent me from hitting up 27 precincts on election day though as I don’t think the Diebold voting machines are connected live, or are they?

    If the technology supports it, make it happen Cap’n.

    • Lawton Sack says:

      Exactly, which is why I encouraged them to sit on the bill until they can talk with citizens, election superintendents, and local government officials. This is the type of feedback that they need to hear so that they can make a wise decision.

      • Honestly, my preferred solution would be something like every precinct open in the 4 days (including Tuesday) leading up to the election. The good thing about expanded early voting is that it helps to handle the demand by spreading access across many days. The bad thing about early voting is that I’m still somewhat uncomfortable with people casting a ballot without the candidates having sufficient time to disseminate their messages – especially challengers.

        Having a compressed schedule (4 days or a week) but more locations preserves the additional access/supply of early voting but solves the other problems. You could even compromise and make any precinct an early voting location Sat-Mon and returning to a home precinct system on Tuesday.

        I’m glad to see the legislature starting to tackle this seriously in a bipartisan manner without simply resorting to a simple MORE ALWAYS / MORE NEVER shouting match.

  5. Joe Pettit says:

    I understand the desire to make voting easier, but I don’t think this bill does what it intends, especially while maintaining the current precinct system. Precincts are designed to accommodate neighborhoods, a certain volume of people and specific ballots. I find the potential of this initiative to be overwhelmingly negative. These are some of the potential negatives that come to mind:

    1) Precincts closer to business centers would be overwhelmed.
    2) The individuals that live near business centers would be discourage by the lines at “their precinct” and not vote.
    3) It would be expensive to equip each precinct with the connectivity necessary to access the state voter files, to ensure people aren’t voting multiple times. There are other expense related and technological issues that this bill creates, but essentially, counties (like Cobb where I’m on the Board of Elections) don’t have the resources to set up 150+ early voting-type centers on election day.

    There are other states that are set up technically to accommodate larger voting centers, but as far as I can tell, Georgia is not. This bill seems like it will create more issues than it will solve.

    Back to the drawing board!

    • Somehow SunTrust makes it so I can’t go to every ATM in DeKalb County and withdraw the same money 100 times in a day. I think we can figure it out for voting too. Even a large county like Cobb has a very small database of voters compared to other commercial applications out there.

      • Joe Pettit says:

        This is a horrible analogy. Commercial banking units are hard wired, and generally permanent units that are used for the purpose of satisfying customer needs and generating a profit for the bank. These units are constantly serviced, with software improvements that are seen by the bank as the cost of doing business (ie the cost of making the bank and its shareholders money).

        Georgia’s voting machines are highly mobile, and each precinct is loaded with the information specific to that precinct, with no hard wired (wifi is not compatible) access to the state voter file – access to the state voter file is needed to insure there is no duplication of an individual’s ballot. Early voting locations are set up with hard wired access to the state voter file, which requires very specific locations to be chosen – locations that meet the spacial capacity and the technological requirements.

        Georgia’s voting machines are also based off technology that is a decade old, and while improvements/upgrades have been made, it still doesn’t match the technology found in a 10-year old ATM. I also don’t believe the GA taxpayers would look kindly on major technological upgrades every election cycle.

        I have friends in the Georgia Secretary of State office, and they have told me about some of the new technology they have seen at conventions. I would not be against upgrading our entire system to new technology, if the Secretary of State can justify the need and the legislature can find the funds to pay for the new technology. That being said, unless the legislature is willing to take a much more in depth look at the technological and practical systems, I don’t think legislation like this is positive.

  6. Noway says:

    You know, let’s just let folks vote the very next day after the primaries have been decided. Don’t wanna make it hard to exercise a civic responsibility, do we?? Good Lord! I say take it back to the way it used to be: 7am to 7pm on the appropriate Tuesday. If you cannot be there on that day, get off your duff and physically go to the elections office and pick up your absentee ballot beforehand. No voting for two months before the real election, Saturdays, Sundays or anything else. Don’t like standing in a line? Tough….

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