I-TEAM: Local precincts set emergency procedures for runoff election

Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 9:06 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Glitches on Election Day came at a time where scrutiny is at an all-time high with the integrity of our democratic process under attack.

High interest in the election and record-breaking voter turnout is new this time around, but problems at the polls are not. We’ve covered dozens of elections over the years on both the local and national level.

The I-Team spoke with experts about what stop-gap measures are in place to protect each and every vote.

We all remember 2012. It was the year President Barack Obama ran for re-election against Republican Governor Mitt Romney. We reported on the election then, and much like the runoff today, there were a few hiccups at the polls.

A ballot mix-up in North Augusta led to some people in the city limits not being able to vote in the election for Sunday alcohol sales.

“It’s not anything that’s been done intentionally. We’re human, and we make mistakes,” Director Cynthia Holland with Aiken County Registration and Elections said.

Voters in Richmond county experienced problems during the 2012 election too. We reported on the errors with the machines.

“We did have a couple of people who inadvertently received the wrong ballot and we just canceled their ballot and gave them the one that they wanted,” Lynn Bailey with the Richmond County Board of Elections said.

Now fast forward eight years to the 2020 election.

“What has really separated this election from all the ones you have worked in the past?” Bailey said. “A couple of huge things that have impacted everything. Number one, we have a new voting system in the state of Georgia.”

New machines rolled out amid a pandemic, coupled with a COVID-induced staffing shortage led to long lines last June for Richmond County voters during the primary election.

In Columbia County, we reported on voters changing absentee to in-person lead to machine glitches during the primary too.

So, when a few glitches emerged this morning in Columbia County, the I-Team checked and confirmed election officials enacted their emergency procedures, a policy they used in past elections as well.

The I-Team confirmed each election office must have an emergency procedure for each worst-case scenario:

The device to look up registered voters not working? There is a hard copy on file.

The touch screen is broken? Bring out the paper ballots.

The machine won’t read ballots? There is an emergency ballot bin on each machine in case it happens.

Human and machine error is nothing new during an election.

“The general sidebar issues are the general argumentative nature of elections right now.

But what is new is the surge of public interest and partisan rhetoric.

What is also new is more investigators on the ground. The GBI is aiding the Secretary of State in investigating allegations of voter fraud in Georgia.

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