QR Codes At the Focus of Election Bills Introduced by Georgia Republicans

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republicans in the Georgia Legislature are pushing a spate of bills that would greatly alter how ballots are counted in the Peach State. 

The most prominent bill, which the Republican-controlled Georgia Senate passed in a party line vote last week, would ban the use of QR codes to count paper ballots, instead requiring such ballots to be counted from the printed text or darkened oval next to a candidate’s name.

“The biggest challenge that a voter has is knowing that their vote was correctly recorded,” Republican state Sen. Max Burns said according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Let’s eliminate QR codes. Let’s make sure that electors can read the ballot and be clear about how they voted.”

John LaHood, another Republican representative in the Georgia Senate, voiced concern about the accuracy of QR codes, according to The Current. “There’s been a lot of doubt surrounding the QR code, voters questioning whether the QR code is interpreting their vote accurately,” he said. “Having the actual text they can see and interpret themselves … is the right correction for us to go in.”

Georgia voters who vote in person cast their ballots using electronic voting machines that then print a paper ballot with a unique QR code that, when scanned, corresponds to the voter’s choices. Election workers then scan the QR code and the vote is electronically counted. 

Misinformation about the accuracy of ballot QR and barcodes spread among right-wing politicians in the 2020 and 2022 election, but multiple reports did not find accuracy issues in barcodes on paper ballots.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the state’s House of Representatives introduced three bills this year related to the use of paper ballots in elections. House Bill 974, which was introduced in January, would require the Georgia secretary of state to “establish and maintain a state-wide system for the posting of scanned paper ballots,” House Bill 976 would require all paper ballots to have a “visible watermark security feature” and House Bill 977 would “expand the number of contests subject to risk-limiting audits.” Should all these bills pass, it would greatly alter how Georgia runs their elections. 

On the QR codes bill, Burns said that it isn’t “realistic” that the Senate bill would pass in time for the general election in November. He added that the cost of buying new ballot scanners to scan ballots without QR codes could cost the state more than $10 million, according to the Associated Press, which Democrats say is an unnecessary expense. “We have an election around the corner and there is not time to deal with all this new technology now,” Sen. Sally Harrell (D) said in a floor debate according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “There was plenty of time to do it, but Republicans chose not to.”

Read the text for the QR codes bill here. 

Track the status of the bill here.