Atlanta Journal Constitution
Bryan Long - Staff
Thursday, June 20, 2002
Georgia -- If Georgia's first all-electronic general election goes smoothly this fall, much of the credit will go to Kennesaw State University.
The school received $500,000 to open a Center for Election Systems to coordinate election preparation with the secretary of state and to teach election officials the technical side of new machines that look more like automated teller machines than traditional paper ballots.
With qualifying for the Aug. 20 elections to end at noon Friday, the election season is officially in full swing.
The election center is led by Neil Hall, a KSU professor of computer science. Hall and his team are working behind the scenes to find and solve problems that will arise as the state receives 19,015 electronic voting machines. The machines will be used in November's election.
This year, the center will focus primarily on proving the machines work properly, but the work's scope will expand in future elections. The idea is to create a one-call shop for election problems.
"If you're an election official and you have a question but you don't know where that question should go, call KSU," said Michael Barnes, assistant director of elections for the secretary of state's office.
The center has set up a Web site and a toll-free number as quick ways to answer those questions.
It's a system that's unique to Georgia. It's an inspiration that followed the problems of the 2000 presidential election and is directly tied to the state's purchase of a new voting system.
While many states have looked to change election machines after the election, only Georgia has thrown out all the old machines to make way for identical polling booths statewide.
"Every other state in the country will be following what we're doing," Secretary of State Cathy Cox has said.
And to make sure Georgia provides an example of the right way to roll out the system, KSU was asked to monitor the process and provide technical assistance in the future. The secretary of state and the university have worked together for years on other projects.