There isn’t time to remove QR codes from paper ballots in Georgia, as Republican legislative leaders have proposed, before this year’s elections, GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Wednesday.
“I would support moving to human-readable text,” Raffensperger said during the second day of legislative hearings on Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget recommendations. “The challenge is getting it done for the 2024 election.”
The General Assembly passed legislation in 2019 providing for a paper backup to electronic ballots, a move aimed at giving Georgians more confidence their votes are being recorded accurately. But some voters have complained that the QR codes that accompany paper ballots are confusing and impose a barrier on transparency.
Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, said last week House Republicans will push to eliminate the QR codes. On the Senate side, Republicans have been calling for eliminating the QR codes since last fall.
“We’ve been talking about getting rid of the QR codes for a long time,” Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told Raffensperger Wednesday. “Citizens do not trust the QR code.”
But Raffensperger said this year’s elections are rapidly approaching, starting with the presidential primaries in March and followed in short order by congressional and legislative primary elections in May.
“We’re already into the election of 2024,” he said. “We’re continuing with the system we have now.”
Raffensperger is asking for more than $5.2 million in his fiscal 2025 budget request to begin the process of upgrading the state’s voting equipment by installing new software in every voting machine in Georgia. However, that would require testing of the new equipment over six to nine months, he said.
The secretary also is looking to hire additional investigators for the agency’s Elections Division.
“Delays in investigations can have a serious impact on some voters’ confidence,” he said.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, said getting rid of the QR codes would not require new legislation.
“The No.-1 issue is the removal of the QR codes,” he said.
But Raffensperger said passing a new law isn’t the issue.
“It’s really the technology and having that available from the vendors,” he said.
Raffensperger defended the current system Georgia uses for elections, pointing to a poll conducted by the University of Georgia that found 90% of respondents expressed confidence in the integrity of the 2022 elections.
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