On Friday, 26 September 2020, the Secretary of State’s office in Georgia sent out a notification to county elections offices. The notification alerted county officials that the state had discovered a programming error involving the state’s touchscreens. These touchscreens are part of a new election system bought by Governor Brian Kemp’s administration that cost the taxpayers of Georgia almost $150 million.
This expensive new voting system was pushed through right before the 2020 election despite warnings that it was too cumbersome and impossible to establish before the 2020 election. Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger was quoted in February of 2020 as saying: “This is the fastest and the largest implementation that’s ever been done in America.”
When poll worker training was started in Georgia, manuals were incomplete, and at least some devices were not working.
The programming error found on Friday, will require the state to reprogram 30,000 new touchscreens called Ballot-Marking-Devices (BMDs). It is difficult to see how this is possible before early voting starts on October 12.
The Coalition for Good Government discovered the flaw in the database hours after the SOS’s office notified county officials.
According to Jeanne Dufort, an election security commentator (9/25/20, Twitter): the “flawed database that has halted critical election preparation in GA shows the risks of outsourced elections. The SOS relied on the vendor to prepare election data bases for all GA counties, and failed to exercise proper oversight – putting the statewide election at risk.”
“We do not know the nature of the database flaw, other than it caused the state to stop LAT (Logic and Accuracy Testing), and inform counties completed LAT is wasted.”
Gray, Justin (2/4/20) Georgia Sets up a New Voting System. WSBTV uote fro Article: The new machines are more secure than Georgia’s old voting machines because they generate paper ballots.
The repeated threat by Trump that he may not cede power even if the 2020 vote goes against him, accomplishes two things.
First, it normalizes any such refusal should it become necessary. His base has been psychologically groomed for five years to accept the notion that the vote is “rigged” not for Trump but against him and that any actions the Republicans take in response to this rigging, is warranted. I have no doubt that most of this base would now welcome, indeed celebrate, a refusal of Trump to leave office. And, I have no doubt that Republican elected officials would support him.
Second, this repeated harping on the “rigging” of the election, draws out Democrats to deny the assertion. Democrat after Democrat goes on television (just like they did in 2016) asserting that everyone must accept the outcome of the vote as legitimate. In 2016, they did so believing that Hillary Clinton was going to win. Barak Obama was so certain Clinton was going to win, he backed down on telling the American people the truth about Russian interference in the election. Clinton, he is reported to have thought, would sort it out.
2020 seems to be shaping up in very much the same way. Just as in 2016, poll after poll indicates that the Democrat will win. Corporate Democratic strategists and pundits are sending out resumes and planning their second or third home purchase.
But, as Jonathan Simon (election specialist and author of Code Red) has pointed out regarding this election, the Republicans are gaming out several bites at the electoral apple.
By generating massive attention to norm-shattering methods of stealing the election (having the states choose the electors, refusing to leave office, declaring a victory immediately and claiming all the mail-in ballots are false, filing more lawsuits and throwing the race into the Supreme Court) Republicans are successfully deflecting attention away from what is a more insidious enterprise, manipulating the vote count itself.
Election security is not something I ever intended to research. Then, I went to my yearly poll worker training in Georgia. I walked out at lunch convinced that there was something very wrong with the new voting system recently purchased by Brian Kemp’s government.
I am not a technical person, not by any stretch of the imagination a computer person, but even I could tell that the training was focused as much on propaganda as it was on administering an election. For example, signs we had used for years in the polling place were now being thrown away and replaced with “secure the vote” signs. The standard lapel stickers saying “I voted”, was now “I secured my vote.” Why had the state invested all this money in convincing us this vote was secure?
I could also tell that if the things that routinely went wrong with the technology in my own house (printers inexplicably not working, scanners backing up and jamming) went wrong on election day, it was going to be a disaster. It was also evident to me that the measures that were being taken to “secure the vote” were geared toward threats to elections held years ago, before computers entered the picture.
In addition, we were discouraged from asking “political” questions, i.e., how the various computerized machines were programmed, or what kept them secure from being hacked.
Parts of the election technology, the poll books that were supposed to tell us whether a person was registered to vote, wouldn’t even work in the training session. The county official who was in charge of training us to operate this equipment could not get the poll book to work for the entire morning.
The county official first told us that these polling books (computers) were secure because they never left the control of the county election officials, and then when she couldn’t get it to work blamed this on the fact that the polling book had been in somebody else’s control before the training session.
And, then there was the discussion of the printed “ballot” that voters were supposed to check for accuracy before putting it in the scanner. We were told that there would be a designated poll worker who would encourage voters to check their ballots to make sure that the “Ballot Marking Device” had accurately recorded their vote. It was mandatory for each polling place to have readers available, glasses so that people could read the ballots. This was necessary because the print was so small.
I came home disgusted, distressed and feeling like I had been part of a scam. There was just too much push to convince us how secure this new outrageously expensive voting system was. I’ve always been like one of those horses that balks at the gate if you lead them too fast. You start trying too hard to convince me of something, I’m going to yank my head back and jerk the reins out of your hand.
I felt horrible about walking out of the training. The women that run the county elections are wonderful people. The people I had worked with on election day in the past were wonderful, conscientious, dedicated. But I just couldn’t do this one.
So, I started researching. I had run across information before about manipulation of the vote count, especially in the race between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp. But, I hadn’t spend much time reading about it. It’s not easy reading for a number of reasons. But I remembered the server that had been wiped clean after the Abrams race when it got down to actually recounting the votes.
The same people who orchestrated the highly suspect election where Kemp beat Abrams were now spending a whole lot of our money trying to convince us that our vote was “secure.” I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something wrong.
Then, I stumbled across the information (never talked about in the training) that the paper ballot printed out for voters, the paper that had their choices printed on it was not what the scanners counted. The printed words (that were too small to read without glasses) were meaningless. The scanner actually used a bar code at the bottom of the ballot to record the vote. So, this ballot, this thing that the Kemp administration kept telling people was a verifiable paper ballot, was not that at all. When voters were told to check the printed words on the ballot to make sure their votes had been accurately recorded, they were being scammed, conned, fooled. The scanner didn’t pay the least bit of attention to the printed words. It recorded a vote coded into the bar code. The voter couldn’t read the bar code, couldn’t verify it. The election officials couldn’t even read the bar code.
I knew then I was going to have to devote a considerable amount of time trying to understand this.
After following Jennifer Cohn and Jonathan Simon, listening to an interview between the two of them and reading Jonathan Simon’s book “Code Red,” it became evident to me that Georgia was just one part of a national effort by Republicans to steal this election.
That fact becomes more and more evident with every day.
Even though the corporate media seems drawn to the notion of Trump refusing to leave the White House after a massive win by Biden, there is another much more likely scenario. As Nichols writes: “…what could turn out to be the most concerted effort to overturn the will of the people is taking place before most ballots are cast.”
In a thousand different ways, the Republicans are deploying strategies to steal the election before it even beings. Nichols details “legal challenges, lawsuits, court orders, decisions and rulings in so many states.” It is, he says, a “strategic assault on voting rights.”
In May of 2020, the NYT was reporting millions of dollars allocated by the GOP to fund legal actions. This was part of a $20 million plan to challenge “voters deemed suspicious.”
In locality after locality, the Republicans and their teams of lawyers and jurists are placing barriers to high-turnout election. In some states, like Florida and Georgia, this includes taxpayer funded efforts being carried out by Republican minions such as Ron DeSantis and Brian Kemp.
In Florida, in addition to roadblocks to voting by mail, lawyers working for the Republican governor have secured a decision from the US Court of Appeals for the 11rh Circuit to require former felons to pay off any outstanding court fees before they can vote. This is after the voters in Florida voted to allow former felons to vote. But, the new poll tax approved by the court, means that some 774,000 former felons are now charged for the right to vote. It is instructive to remember that Clinton lost Florida by less than 115,000 votes.
In Iowa, a successful legal challenge meant that absentee ballot requests already sent out were voided because the requests contained identifying voter information already filled in. Republicans succeeded in having 64,000 requests voided in two counties.
In Pennsylvania, Republican lawyers are seeking to prevent voters from using drop boxes to deliver absentee ballots. The drop boxes were intended to help compensate for the post office slow downs that will delay the ballots if mailed.
Pennsylvania legislators have tried to ban drop boxes entirely and put new restrictions on deadlines for requesting mail in ballots. Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 45,000 votes.
In some states, the courts have not allowed the Republican party to get away with this pre-election voter suppression. In Ohio, for example, a judge ruled that the Republican Secretary of State, Frank LaRose’s, move to limit the use of drop boxes was “arbitrary and unreasonable.”
In Wisconsin, the State Supreme Court voted to let 1 million requested absentee ballots be sent to voters after the distribution of the ballots had been delayed. There was a dispute over whether the Green Party had qualified for the ballot.
But, in Texas last week, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the fifth circuit ruled that Texas did not have to offer vote by mail to all eligible voters. They embraced a Republican argument that the state should be allowed to mandate a 65-and-over age limit for voting absentee.
These lawsuits and many others form an attack on voting rights, the use of the courts to restrict voting in districts where Biden is thought to be ahead.
“Nothing should be more self-evident than the simple statement that for an election to have legitimacy, the counting process must be observable” Code Red by Jonathan Simon.
In many states, however, Republican party officials have worked to make sure that the counting process is not observable. They have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to fool us into believing that we have a fair, observable system when we do not.
In the state of Georgia, to give but one example, the government of Brian Kemp (who himself benefited from vote manipulation that edged him into the governorship) is using tax payer money to make sure that the voting process is secret.
Georgia had used a paperless, touchscreen voting machine system since 2002. When we voted, our votes disappeared into a cyber world that could not be checked, verified, or audited.
The state then ignored warnings from independent researchers that the system had been easily penetrated through the internet. Because state officials refused to admit the problems with the system, it became necessary to file a lawsuit in 2017. The problems were found by the court to be so egregious, that in 2019, a federal court order had to be issued to require Georgia to stop using the all‑electronic voting system by year’s end because of the system’s proven vulnerability to cyberattack (Curling v. Raffensperger).
The response from Republican government officials was not to return to hand-marked paper ballots, but to spend over $100 million dollars on a new voting machine system that was designed not to secure the vote, but to convince voters (and the court) that votes were “secured.”
In addition to the amount of money paid for the voting system, an untold amount of state money was used in a PR campaign to dupe the people of Georgia into believing that this new system was an improvement over the last one. It was not.
What the new, outrageously expensive system did was to introduce a piece of paper into the process, what they called a “paper ballot,” that was printed by a machine. Officials then crowed that the vote was verifiable. And, they went around the state recruiting organizations and groups to pose with the new state “I Secured my Vote” propaganda. But, the paper, the “ballot” was nothing more than a prop in the theatre production that was to look like an “election.”
The process works like this:
The voter’s identification is checked in on an electronic polling book (computer) that has records of registered voters. If registered the voter is given a card.
This card is inserted into another machine, a Ballot Marking Device (BMD).
The voter then touches a screen to record his/her votes.
When finished, the BMD issues a “ballot.”
So, the BMD records the vote and marks a “ballot” for the voter. It then prints out that ballot with words that are said to reflect the voting preferences.
The voter is asked (encouraged) to take that ballot to a different station and check the words to make sure that they accurately reflect the voting preferences, i.e., how you voted.
Then, the voter takes the ballot and feeds it into a scanner which records the vote. The ballots collect inside the scanner which looks (ironically enough) like an enormous trash can.
Now, first of all, every polling place is mandated to stock readers, glasses that magnify the words on the ballot because the print is so small. This obviously in and of itself discourages voters from checking the ballots.
But, more importantly, what they don’t tell the voter is that the words on the ballot are not what is counted when s/he puts the ballot into the scanner. The words, the ones telling the voter who s/he voted for are meaningless gibberish. They are decoration, props. The words printed on the “ballot” have no relation to the vote counted by the scanner.
What the scanner counts is a bar code printed at the bottom of the ballot. You cannot read the barcode. In most cases, not even computer experts can read the barcode in these electronic voting systems. You have no idea what the scanner records, and you cannot check it with readers or without them.
So, just imagine this. You vote on a machine, it prints out words on a piece of paper that reflect who you voted for. You check these words to make sure that they reflect who you voted for. You put this paper in the scanner and this machine records not what you checked, but something you cannot check, a barcode at the bottom of the page. You have been duped.
But, you might say, these ballots are still paper, physical, they can be recounted if there is a problem. This is better than the completely paperless system before. Perhaps, but this actually makes no difference if the recount does not examine the words printed on the ballot.
The state of Georgia has made clear that any recount (and recounts are not easy to get) will only involve running the ballots through the scanner again, a second time. They have explicitly stated that there will be no examination of the match between the printed words and the barcodes.
So, the new voting system is designed not to provide a “transparent, fair, accurate, and verifiable election processes…” (as U.S. District Judge Totenberg mandated in 2019) but exactly the opposite. The new voting system is engineered to make people believe that it is transparent and verifiable, and to give them pieces of paper they can hold and “check” in order to fool them.
Judge Totenberg held a hearing this week to consider a preliminary injunction brought on behalf of the people of Georgia, to force the state to use hand-marked paper ballots in the November election for people who are voting in person.
But, after spending the outrageous $100 million for the new voting system/propaganda system, the lawyers for the state of Georgia maintain that this would be too expensive and too cumbersome.
We must start asking and demanding answers to questions about why the state of Georgia spent this enormous amount of money on a voting system that doesn’t ensure transparency and now is spending more money fighting measures to try to ensure transparency.
The Republicans are using a variety of methods to steal this election. At the moment, the focus is on disenfranchising people because their ballots by mail don’t arrive on time. The Republican party is actively sabotaging the post office to make sure that your ballot doesn’t arrive on time. But, this is just one of the issues.
In Georgia, for example, if the signature you use to sign your mail-in ballot does not match exactly the signature as you wrote it when you got your driver’s license, they can (and I suppose will) throw it out. For example, I use my first two initials and my last name to sign almost everything. It’s quicker and easier. But, I also sometimes write my first name, middle initial and last name. On the ballot I just used in the primary, I signed both ways just to make sure there was no confusion. Today, I learned that this means that my ballot was almost certainly thrown out.
If your signature changes in any way, since you applied for your driver’s license, your ballot can be thrown out.
There are a thousand and one different catches like this that can be used to throw your vote out.
1) ballot arrives late due to post office
2) signatures that don’t exactly match your driver’s license signature
3) having had your name stricken from the voter rolls because a name similar to yours appears in another state. (Read Greg Palast’s book about how many people were purged in Georgia because their first and last names were the same as someone in another state (for example, George Mason). These people were purged even though the Georgia person was named George A. Mason and the Virginia person was George B. Mason; even though the birth dates were different.
4) having been purged from the voter registration roles because you didn’t vote in two elections
This list goes on and on and on. It’s not reading that I especially enjoy, but if you want to understand the true depth of the voter manipulation that is going on, you have to do it. They are depending on people not reading about this, not researching this.
They are also depending on people NOT WANTING TO BELIEVE that the voting system is this terrible. I have had friends, Democrats, get angry, really angry because I tried to tell them about the research demonstrating how much vote manipulation is going on (in this case in Georgia). People get mad because they want to think that all they have to do is vote.
There is a reason the state of Georgia spent a small fortune on complicated new voting machines just before the election. And, there is a reason they made every polling place replace all their signs that said “I voted” with “I secured the vote.” This is a propaganda campaign to convince people that their vote is counted in a fair election.
To give you just one example: the state of Georgia maintains that you have a paper ballot with these machines . A paper ballot means that your vote can be verified, right? You get a piece of paper printed out with your voting choices on it. You are supposed to check these and make sure they are right before running the paper ballot through the scanner which records your vote.
But, your actual vote, the vote that is recorded by the scanner that you put your ballot through, does not even recognize the printed material. It reads a bar code at the bottom of the page that YOU CANNOT READ. So, just because you check and see in the printed part that you voted for Biden, nothing prevents the bar code from saying you voted for Trump. You would never know.
Just recently, the State of Georgia said that in any recount, the recount would be confined to running the ballots through the scanner again. IF YOUR VOTE WAS RECORDED INCORRECTLY IN THE BAR CODE, RUNNING IT THROUGH THE SCANNER AGAIN ISN’T GOING TO CHANGE THAT.
The State of Georgia (run by the criminal Brian Kemp) was explicit. Any recount would involve ONLY running the ballots through the scanner again.
We cannot just assume that “overwhelming voter turn out” will win this election for us. Voter turnout means nothing if your vote is not counted, or counted incorrectly.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, (8/13/20) even the administration’s coronavirus task force is warning that Georgia continues to see a “widespread and expanding community viral spread.” And, the task force warns that the state’s current policies aren’t enough to curtail the spread of the virus.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in August signed into law a new measure providing additional legal protections to police officers, a step that critics say is flawed and out of step with nationwide efforts to make officers more accountable for their actions.
From The Root: “Georgia governor and unofficial Donald Trump butt-wiper Brian Kemp signed a proposal into law Wednesday that basically treats police officers as a protected class because white conservatives have convinced themselves that “blue” people are actually an oppressed minority. What’s worse is that the bill was pushed by state Senate Republicans as an ultimatum demanding it be signed into law otherwise they wouldn’t approve a hate-crime bill that had finally gained overwhelming support and approval after the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.” https://www.theroot.com/georgia-gov-brian-kemp-signs-police-protection-bill-in-1844634019
Glynn County, Georgia is where three men chased down Ahmaud Arbery, shot and killed him in the middle of the afternoon for jogging through their neighborhood.
It is also the county where the scandal-ridden Glynn County Police declined to arrest the three men. The County Commission (which includes a man who narrowly escaped being prosecuted for insurance fraud by letting his wife plead to the charges) is trying to protect the Glynn County Police by blaming the County Prosecutor. The County Prosecutor recused herself because one of the men who killed Arbery had worked for the police department and also was a recently retired investigator for the prosecutor’s office.
The local newspaper, The Brunswick News, just won an award from the Georgia Press Association, but this newspaper is one of the worst local newspapers. It publishes nothing but right-wing articles and editorials, evidently has no mechanism for spell checking its headlines, and actively contributes to the culture which produced the Arbery killing.
Richard Yarborough is called a “humor columnist.” But, a few months after the arrest of the three men who killed Arbery, the Brunswick News published a “humorous” article in which Yarborough mocks the removal of obviously racist branding.
The hysterically funny joke is that bottles in the supermarket are talking to him. He says that other bottles on the shelf in the grocery store are “feeling threatened by what is happening.”
According to Mrs. Butterworth, “A group of people dressed like wennies came into the store dragging a statue of some old dude on a horse behind them. Before we knew it, they had snatched Aunt Jemima right off the shelf! And when Uncle Ben started to protest, they grabbed him too, saying that he should be ashamed of himself for being a symbol of racial inequality by promoting he white race.”
Yarborough goes on to blame “the politically correct police.”
Mrs. Butterworth explains that they are after her because “they can’t decide if I am Black or White.”
Then Quaker Man “he is like, uh, very Caucasian.” “That’s not a plus these days. And then there is his religion…now we are into the question if separation of church and state. The ACLU will be all over this…”
Yarborough concludes: “It seems that the inmates are running the asylum these days.”
This is how seriously the local newspaper is taking the issue of race.
“Talking political correctness with a bottle of syrup.” By email@example.com
Ahmaud Arbery was killed in Glynn County, Georgia about a mile from my house. The man in charge of the police department at the time, John Powell, was indicted the same month after a series of scandals involving the Glynn County Police Department.
The County Commissioners are meeting today, June 25, 2020 and are likely to vote to use county reserve funds to create a job for John Powell. The Commissioners (including one of whom recently just escaped being prosecuted for insurance fraud because his wife plead guilty to the charges) is creating a $150,000 a year job for this man.
Niesse, Mark (5/15/20) “Amid budget cuts, Georgia pays to keep old voting machines in storage.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
First, there is the headline. The headline opposes the budget cuts from the state of Georgia and the money being spent to house voting machines used in the 2016 (and I think 2018) elections. The obvious message is that we are wasting tax payer money to house unneeded voting machines when we are in the middle of deep budget cuts.
Here is the first sentence of the article:
“As Georgia is preparing for deep budget cuts, the state government is paying $432,000 a year to store 30,000 voting machines that will never be used again.”
First, as a reader pointed out, why should it cost almost half a million dollars to store some voting machines for a year?
Second, the reporter is asserting something he has no knowledge of, that is whether the machines will be “used” again. The voting machines will certainly be used again if they are evidence in a lawsuit to see whether there were election improprieties. And, that impropriety will certainly not be uncovered if the voting machines are destroyed.
So, the argument that the reporter is just reporting the facts is clearly absurd. It is not a fact that these machines will “never be used again.” This is an assumption on the part of the reporter, clearly the assumption that the state of Georgia wants people to believe.
So, why does the reporter take on as fact an assumption that supports the state’s side in this dispute over the voting machines?
An attorney for the secretary of state’s office, Bryan Tyson, in a letter on May 9, asserts:
“Continuing to preserve the DREs (the voting machines) at a significant cost to Georgia taxpayers in times of national crisis for state budgets across the country is wasteful and unnecessary.” This was a letter directed toward the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the citizens of Georgia who want to know whether or not these voting machines were compromised in some way.
The citizens involved want to preserve the machines, to find out whether “viruses or malware” which might have infected the machines might have spread to the state’s replacement voting system.
There has been a proposal to destroy two-thirds of the machines but no agreement on which machines to dispose of. This makes perfect sense. If the machines were infected, why destroy any of the evidence that might demonstrate that fact?
“We’ve tried to work with them,” said David Cross, an attorney for a group of plaintiffs suing the state. “If we could at least do an analysis of a reliable statistical sample, we could see if the old system was compromised.”
This seems to be a reasonable position. But, the reporter after noting that statement, then repeats the scare statistics of budget cuts as if this had anything to do with the voting machines.
“All state agencies, including the secretary of state’s office, are planning for 14% budget cuts in the upcoming fiscal year — more than $3.5 billion. The secretary of state’s office is preparing to slice $3.2 million from its $24 million budget through a hiring freeze, licensing board changes and leaving some positions unfilled, Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said.”
“There are so many ways we could spend money outside storage costs,” Fuchs said. “We could use that for fighting real security threats rather than activist’s lawsuits.”
That’s how the reporter chooses to end the article, with a statement by the Deputy Secretary of State calling the people on the other side of the lawsuit “activists” (which I presume is in his mind a negative thing) and maintaining that this fight is not about “real security threats.”
The AJC reporter should be ashamed of this stenographic reporting.
I am a resident of Georgia. I am tired of the graft, corruption, hubris and collusion that goes into making the state government part of the Republican for-profit free-for-all con game.
Video of protest about the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.
This is a letter to the editor that appeared in the Brunswick News (5/14/20). It needs to be pointed out, however, that the Brunswick News is consistently filled with right-wing material and right-wing political commentary from syndicated columnists. The editorial page regularly includes an article by the now deceased Billy Graham. The newspaper also frequently publishes what are essentially campaign ads for the current Representative, (Not your) Buddy Carter.
Letter to the Editor, Brunswick News. 5/14/20.
I never thought that I would be a protester. My mom and dad raised me to respect the law and to submit to authority.
Then a young man was murdered.
I initially called for peace and trust. I worked with law enforcement officials during my career in child protection. In my day, we all dedicated our lives to being moral and ethical servants of our community.
Somehow, Jackie Johnson was elected to work with us, as our chief law enforcement officer. Things changed.
A police officer stalked his wife and subsequently killed her. He was shielded by the DAs office.
A former employee, armed and angry, kills a young man. We now know that she instructed that her former employee not be arrested before recusing herself and hand-picking her successor, who likewise refused to make an arrest. We then learn that he was also conflicted and indebted to DA Johnson through his son’s employment.
The governor needs to suspend DA Johnson until such time as she can be investigated. We need to be able to have faith that “equal protection under the law” are not hollow words.
DA Johnson, step down. We have no faith in you.
A discussion of politics, law, justice, and crime.