Today in Room #415 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building in downtown Atlanta, the Georgia House Democratic Caucus Voting Rights Committee convened to hear testimony from election experts and to hear from three voting machine vendors. The intent of the meeting was twofold: (1) to educate Caucus members on the vulnerabilities of our current touch-screen voting machines; and (2) to provide the members with information to help differentiate among various voting methods.
The first speaker was Sarah Riggs Amico, former Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor and current Executive Chairperson of Jack Cooper Holdings Corp. Sarah recounted the expert research that she
enlisted to validate a voting anomaly in Georgia’s November 2018 General election. These experts included MIT Election Lab and Dr. Michael Herron, Dartmouth Professor of Government Chair, Program in Quantitative Social Science and others. The anomaly exhibited in the form of abnormally large vote drop-off from the Governor to Lt Governor race. This same drop-off did not occur for races which were downballot from the Lt Governor’s race, as all of the other statewide races below Lt Governor received more votes than Sarah’s race did. Studies indicate that steady, slow drop-off generally occurs from the top of the ballot to the bottom, but Sarah’s race bucked that trend. Further, Sarah shared that this vote drop-off occurred only on the State’s voting machine-cast ballots and occurred predominately in the democratic-leaning precincts. Sarah has provided additional details on her election web site. Sarah is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, brought by Coalition for Good Governance and three Georgia voters, which alleges issues with the state’s 16 year-old voting machines contributed to the error.
The next speaker was Rich Demillo, Phd, Professor of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology and former Chief Technology Officer at Hewlett-Packard. He stated there is a 1 in 10,000 chance of the Lt Governor’s race anomaly occurring as it did. He described four scenarios which could lead to such an election outcome: (1) chance; (2) error; (3) manipulation; or (4) cyber attack. Then he indicated that the least likely one of these was chance. He stressed the importance of using a system which reduces risk of manipulation, such as paper ballots which he described as a “permanent record of voter intent.” He also explained that every known attempt to hack into Georgia’s current election system has succeeded.
Sara Henderson, Executive Director of Common Cause Georgia spoke next. She mentioned that six election machine vendors are licensed to sell to Georgia and that five of these had submitted responses when the State put out a Request for Information. She described the erosion of voter confidence which has occurred under the current system and stressed the importance of restoring it by installing a new system using paper ballots which have authority in recounts. If Georgia were to move to a full electronic voting method, it would be one of the first (if not the first) to do so. Including continuing fees for maintenance and programming, she explained that the touch screen systems could cost the state more than $400M in all-in costs.
Meeting attendees were offered demonstrations by three of the state’s new voting machine hopefuls: Dominion, Hart InterCivic, and Election Systems & Software. All three vendors offered an option for ballot-marking devices, which were not supported by the meeting’s speakers, and hand marked paper ballots. Committee members as well as meeting attendees from the public were invited to view demonstrations of the systems and ask questions.
Following is an account of each system which was presented in the order that it was demo’ed to me.
Given Georgia’s recent history of elections issues and its current effort to replace it’s antiquated 16-year old voting machines, this issue deserves the attention of the national election integrity community. The vendor selection process should be transparent and open for public input. The highest priority must be the integrity of Georgia’s elections.