The state of Georgia sent a memo today to all County Registrars. In this memo, headed “Be wary of false and misleading information re: ICX update” the State of Georgia accused attorneys involved in litigation of “false and misleading allegations.”
The memo, which is in tone and content, completely unprofessional, Chris Harvey, Elections Division warns county election officials about correspondence they “may have received” from “activists.”
The “activists” in question are attorneys who are fighting in court to try to ensure that the state of Georgia does not install a last-minute update to the software in Dominion voting machines used across the state.
Warning county officials, the state writes:
“These activists have been suing the state and Georgia counties for years because they disagree with the decision of the Georgia General Assembly to use electronic ballot-marking devices instead of hand-marked paper ballots. Because their preferred policy was not enacted, they have tried to force their preferred policy on the state through litigation. The latest correspondence makes false and misleading allegations regarding the recent update to the ICX (touchscreen) component of Georgia’s voting system.”
The updates to the software were said to be necessary because of problems that arose with the Dominion voting system at the beginning of recent testing for the upcoming election.
Attorneys trying to bring some transparency to this update process have been dismissed as has their case. The SOS’s office is arguing that updates do not have to be verified or certified. The citizens of Georgia should just trust them to reprogram voting machines less than two weeks before early voting begins.
In a hearing conducted this morning in federal court in Georgia, the Secretary of State’s (SOS’s) office and the Coalition for Good Governance (CFGG) sparred over errors already found in the new $104 million (at least) electronic voting machine system Brian Kemp’s government bought and paid for with taxpayer money.
On Friday, the SOS’s office issued a bulletin to all of Georgia’s 159 counties telling them to stop Logistics and Analysis (L&A) testing of election devices and systems. The SOS’s office said that an error had been uncovered in the database and the entire database would have to be replaced.
The error had evidently caused candidates in a multi-candidate race to disappear from the screen, the “disappearing colum” problem.
In court on Monday morning the SOS’S office changed their position and said that would not have to replace the database. They were instead changing the software.
This information was news to the Coalition for Good Governance (CFGG). They, like the rest of the public, were under the assumption that the database would be replaced. Lawyers for CFGG argued that changing of the software after voting had already begun was an even more serious problem than replacing the database.
And, CFGG argued that there was not (as the SOS’S office had maintained) just one problem. There were three problems uncovered by Georgia counties once they started testing. According to CFGG, the State had disclosed one problem but not all of the problems.
Three Problems Not Just One
As lawyers for CFGG pointed out, the State had disclosed only one problem but not two other problems that CFGG had been made aware of.
Because of a subpoena, lawyers for CFGG were supposed to witness the testing of a scanner in Cherokee County, Georgia. But, when CFGG contacted Cherokee County to arrange for this witnessing, officials told them that they could come but that the scanner wasn’t recording votes. This problem was a different problem than the “disappearing column” one reported to the press by the SOS. The attorney for CFGG noted that he had talked with officials in Cherokee County Monday morning and the scanner was still not working.
The other, third problem the SOS was not disclosing was a problem in Irwin County, where votes for a write-in candidate were not registering at all.
Lawyers for the SOS’S office basically dismissed concerns expressed over all of the problems, accusing the CFGG of making mountains out of molehills.
The Seriousness of the Problem
In the hearing, the SOS repeatedly minimized the seriousness of the problems and expressed contempt for the lawyers at CFGG. At one point, the SOS’s office argued that the robustness of their testing ensured that problems like the “disappearing columns” problem would not only be found but would be corrected.
The CFGG argued, however, that just because one needle is found hidden in the haystack, that doesn’t mean that the location of all the other needles was known. The SOS found out about the “disappearing column” problem, argued the CFGG attorney by accident, a “freakish” discovery. Just because this problem was uncovered in testing that didn’t mean that ALL problems were discovered or wound be discovered. There is no way of knowing how many other problems there are out there that haven’t been reported or have been dismissed.
The SOS’s office repeatedly in the hearing tried to behave as if the “disappearing column” problem was the only problem and that this problem was “diminimus” meaning not very serious. Evidently in state law, if a problem with the voting system is deemed to be “diminimus” then there are certain actions that aren’t required. In other words, if the problem is deemed not to be serious, serious actions doesn’t need to be taken.
SOS officials argued that some testing lab (what lab?) found the “disappearing column” problem to be “diminimus.” What we don’t know is what procedure was used for declaring the problem to be “diminimus?” And, this completely ignores the other problems.
Anybody with a brain would question this determination. Who decides that a problem with the election system is “not serious” as opposed to “serious?” What are the rules about establishing a “serious” as opposed to a “non serious” problem.
But, in court this morning, the SOS’s office tried to trivialize these questions and also to assert dominion over the issue. Gabriel Sterling, for the SOS;s office, stated: “That is how it’s done and that is how we will continue to do it.” The authoritarian tone of that statement is inescapable.
The “Disappearing Column” Problem
As mentioned earlier, the State’s argument in the hearing was that the system’s testing regime is so “robust” that it found the “disappearing column” problem and that it will find all the other possible problems.
The State argued that the “disappearing column” problem occurred only when a specific behavior pattern is exhibited by the voter. What this means is that if the voter is looking at the screen where the state has listed multiple candidates and then flips back a screen to look at a previous screen (for example, to double check a choice) that is when the “disappearing screen” occurs. My understanding from the hearing is that the State maintains that the “disappearing screen” doesn’t happen every time a voter goes back a screen, just sometimes.
This is a $104 million (at least) voting system. But, voters moving back and forth between screens either checking a previous choice or through error, throws the entire system into chaos and makes legally eligible candidates disappear off the voting screen. The State argued that voters rarely choose to move back to check another screen. But, THEY DON’T KNOW THIS. How would they know this?
And why with a $104 system, hasn’t somebody thought about the possibility of a voter flipping back a screen? Flipping from screen to screen is something that anybody who uses a computer does every day. $104 million and this is a problem?
The Numbers in the Name Problem
Not only have the architects of a $104 million system not ever thought of the possibility of voters flipping back and forth between screens, they also haven’t thought of other possibilities. The “disappearing column” problem is one issue and evidently the one the State of Georgia has chosen to deal with. But there are two other problems.
In Irwin County, election officials were so conscientious in their testing that they made sure that every write-in candidate would be recorded. Because the state certifies qualified write-in candidates and sends a list to county officials, the head of elections in Irwin county decided to check those names against the machines.
What he found was that one write-in candidate couldn’t be chosen. The machine wouldn’t accept the choice. The reason? The candidate had numbers in his name. Using a $104 million voting system, this is a problem. The candidate chose to use the name PresidentR19boddie. Why? I have no idea.
But, because the officials in Irwin County were conscientious, they made sure that a vote for any of the write-in candidates would be recorded. What they found was that the program would only allow letters, not numerals. Again, this is a $104 million voting system.
The Scanner Problem in Cherokee County
Because of a subpoena granted in the lawsuit brought by CFGG, experts from CFGG were supposed to witness the functioning or testing of a scanner in Cherokee County. When lawyers from CFGG contacted Cherokee County to arrange this witnessing, the officials told CFGG that they could come to Cherokee county, but the scanner wasn’t working.
According to lawyers from CFGG speaking during the hearing on Monday morning, they contacted the SOS’s office multiple times during the weekend to alert them to the problem in Cherokee County. The SOS’s office ignored them and didn’t even respond. Lawyers from the CFGG pointed out to the State that this problem was different from the one the State was alerting counties about with the “disappearing columns.” But, as the lawyers from CFGG characterized it there were “crickets.”
In the hearing, lawyers for the SOS’s office maintained that they were not aware of the problem in Cherokee County. Lawyers for the CFGG pointed out that they had repeatedly notified the state and had talked to Cherokee County on Monday morning and confirmed that the scanner was still not working.
The CFGG attorneys also pointed out in the hearing that whatever the problems were, even after the bulletin issued by the SOS’s office to stop L&A analysis, some counties were proceeding. So, it appeared that some counties hadn’t even understood the bulletin. There was confusion among the county officials.
In the end, SOS officials claimed that they were going to change not the database, as they had told the counties on Friday, but the software. In the hearing at least the question of who was going to approve of, check, and certify this change in software was not answered.
Elections security expert Jennifer Cohn argued that this change of the software was even more serious and fraught with potential for security risks than a change in the database.
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.
“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.
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.
A discussion of politics, law, justice, and crime.