How do Georgia’s new voting machines work? Here’s your chance to see one in Columbus

With a busy election year looming and a new voting machine system coming online, the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registrations has set a public meeting where voters can hear about the upcoming changes and ask questions.

The meeting is set for 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Community Room of the City Services Center at 3111 Citizens Way, off Macon Road by the Columbus Public Library.

One of the new voting machines will be on display so residents can see how it works. The primary difference from the old machines is that the new ones are “ballot printers,” meaning that once voters have made their choices, they will have a “print ballot” icon to tap that prints out a hard copy of the ballot for voters to review before they cast it.

When the ballot’s cast, the printed version is stored, creating a paper trail record of the vote.

The county also is proposing moving two voting precincts to get them out of schools, a long-running trend. Schools are not considered preferable as voting polls because of traffic congestion when students are coming and going, and because of security concerns caused by strangers accessing school campuses that usually keep track of visitors for the students’ protection.

Muscogee County currently has only two of its 25 precincts in schools, one at Fort Middle School, 2900 Woodruff Farm Road, and another at Rothschild Middle School, 1136 Hunt Ave. The board proposes moving those to nearby churches. The Fort precinct would move to Canaan Baptist Church, 2835 Branton Woods Drive, and the Rothschild poll would go to Holsey Monumental CME Church, 6028 Buena Vista Road.

Elections director Nancy Boren said the two moves would complete the board’s 2009 commitment to the school district to minimize voting in schools.

A busy ballot

Besides voting on president and vice president in a primary on March 24 and in the General Election on Nov. 3, Georgia next year will have races for U.S. Senate, the U.S. House and the Georgia General Assembly.

Elections in Columbus will include the even-numbered city council seats and the odd-numbered school board posts, plus sheriff, marshal, district attorney, coroner, tax commissioner and Superior Court judge.

The Muscogee School Board also has a special purpose local option sales tax it plans to put on the ballot with the March 24 presidential preference primary, and the city government has another on the Nov. 3 General Election ballot.

The first voter registration deadline will be Feb. 24, the last day to register for the March 24 presidential primary. Residents unsure of their registration status can check it online at the Georgia Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page,” www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.

The Muscogee elections office is online at www.columbusga.org/elections. Anyone needing more information may call 706-653-4392.

Tim Chitwood is from Seale, Ala., and started as a police beat reporter with the Ledger-Enquirer in 1982. He since has covered Columbus’ serial killings and other homicides, following some from the scene of the crime to trial verdicts and ensuing appeals. He also has been a Ledger-Enquirer humor columnist since 1987. He’s a graduate of Auburn University, and started out working for the weekly Phenix Citizen in Phenix City, Ala.