Originally created 05/01/06

Election paper trail takes millions to add



ATLANTA - When Georgia spent $54 million in 2002 on electronic voting machines, the move was praised as having put the state on the cutting edge of election technology.

But now the state could end up having to retire those machines as the Legislature considers requiring machines to produce paper proof of votes.

It is an idea that has gained bipartisan support; lawmakers voted this year to test machines that produce paper audit trails in the fall elections.

But Georgia's voting machines, paid for with federal money, cannot accommodate printers for such paper trails. The state would have to spend millions to try to retrofit the machines or buy new ones that can produce a paper record.

The state will have to lease new machines to conduct the limited tryout.

Secretary of State Cathy Cox championed the purchase of the 4-year-old Diebold machines after the punch card debacle of the 2000 presidential election in Florida.

Ms. Cox stands by her choice, saying, "It would have been irresponsible to have done nothing."

Sen. Bill Stephens, R-Canton, proposed the paper trail measure and said he originally wanted to test the audit trail machines in every precinct in the three counties selected. But he said he was surprised to learn the state would have to lease new machines from Diebold to carry out the pilot program.

"My biggest and most immediate concern was, 'Oh my gosh, how much taxpayer money will it cost to replace all of those machines?'" he said.