Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp line-item vetoed $550,000 in proposed funding for technology aimed at reducing wait times for voters checking in at their polling places.
In a message that accompanied his line-item vetoes, Gov. Kemp said that the Secretary of State should disregard language included in the state budget that would give the Secretary of State’s office $550,000 in state general funds for on-boarding local election entities to a statewide data plan to connect check-in tablets used at polling places to a cellphone network.
In his message, Gov. Kemp wrote that “funding for data plan contracts for elections equipment is the responsibility of local governments.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported that the bulk of the funding would go towards paying for tablet connections on election day, when many more polling places and tablets are needed.
The connected tablets, called PollPads, reduced early voting check-in times by about a minute per voter during a test run last year, Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer for the secretary of state’s office, told the AJC. Election officials would also be able to remotely monitor in real-time check-in times, slowdowns, and technical difficulties.
Using the new connected tablets and early voting check-in process, poll workers can verify voter registration information and issue activation cards for voting touchscreens at the same time.
The money also would have funded the start-up costs of the data network during both the primary and runoff elections next year. However, county governments would have been responsible for costs in the 2024 general election. Some of the additional costs that will fall on local election offices are minimal, Sterling said. Network connections cost about $38 per early voting location, or roughly $12,000 for the entire state, Sterling said.
“We look at the resources allocated to do the best we can to get the best value for the voter experience,” Sterling said.
The move was criticized by state Democrats, including State Election Board member Sara Tindall Ghazal, a Democratic Party appointee.
“Nothing like stripping out funding for counties that would have made our elections more secure,” Ghazal tweeted.
Democrat State Representative Shea Roberts said on Twitter that Gov. Kemp’s veto created an “unfunded mandate.”