Common Cause Georgia Opposes Voting Machines Legislation

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  • Sara Henderson

Today, Common Cause Georgia announced its opposition to Senate Bill 403, which is the voting machines legislation introduced at the beginning of the 2018 legislative session.

“Georgia voters need a secure and accurate voting system,” said Sara Henderson, executive director of Common Cause Georgia. “This bill simply does not provide that security and would open up our voting process to possible corruption and hacking. The state is on track to spend $150-200 million dollars for new voting machines and we are not getting transparent verified election systems and processes where the voters can trust the results,” Henderson said.

The acquisition of new voting machines in Georgia was meant to end an era of “black box” voting in Georgia – where there is no way for voters to check their ballots were recorded correctly and no way for the election results to be checked. The legislation falls very short in several key areas, including:

No meaningful check on computer tallied vote results. High profile hacks of many companies and government agencies from Equifax to the Pentagon show that even the most robust systems can be attacked. The legislation requires the state to buy computers which scan and tally votes. However, those computers which tally the ballots can be mis-programmed and hacked. There have been a number of reported cases where scanners have miscounted, and the wrong candidate or ballot measure has been declared the winner.  For examples see these links to scanner miscounts in Rhode Island and Florida.

“The only way to ensure that the results of the elections are correct is to require a robust manual post-election audit,” Henderson said. “This is a common-sense practice recommended by election cyber security experts across the board.”

A good audit consists of a statistically robust number of ballots that are manually sampled by human beings and visually examined to ensure that the results are right. The exact number of ballots required to get high confidence in the outcome is determined using rigorous statistical methods. A number of states are implementing these methods.

An unethical legally mandated procurement process. The legislation requires the current Secretary of State who is also a candidate for governor to both issue a request for proposal (RFP) and choose a vendor during a highly compressed time line. It offers no meaningful transparent opportunity for public review. The procurement process outlined in SB 403 could lead to corruption.

Common Cause Georgia is concerned about the procurement timeline that allows the current Secretary of State Brian Kemp almost exclusive power to negotiate a contract for hundreds of millions of dollars as a gubernatorial candidate. In addition, Common Cause has serious concerns about the lack of authority given to paper ballots in this bill and the lack of a mandated robust post-election audit.

“This legislation would be handing a gubernatorial candidate with a history of trying to manipulate people’s voting rights with the authority to lock us into an unsecure voting system for the next 20 years,” Henderson said. “This is a highly unethical practice to allow a candidate for higher office to potentially seek and receive major donations as he begins the procurement process later this year.”