Sworn Statements Detail Issues With Georgia Midterm Voting, Bolster Abrams

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 06:  Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams addresses supporters at an election watch party on November 6, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Abrams and her opponent, Republican Brian Kemp, are in a tight race that is too close to call.  A runoff for Georgia's governor is likely.  (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 06: Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams addresses supporters at an election watch party on November 6, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Abrams and her opponent, Republican Brian Kemp, a... ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 06: Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams addresses supporters at an election watch party on November 6, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Abrams and her opponent, Republican Brian Kemp, are in a tight race that is too close to call. A runoff for Georgia's governor is likely. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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ATLANTA (AP) — Long lines, last-minute polling place changes, missing or incorrect voter registration records and malfunctioning machines are among the problems Georgians faced during last year’s midterm election, according to sworn statements gathered as part of a challenge to the way the state’s elections are run.

More than 200 declarations made public Wednesday are meant to bolster a lawsuit filed by a group founded by former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who helped focus national attention on Georgia’s voting system during her campaign. She accused her Republican opponent, then-secretary of state Brian Kemp, of using his post as the state’s top elections official to suppress minority votes. Kemp, now governor, has vehemently denied the allegations.

The lawsuit says “gross mismanagement” of the election deprived citizens of their right to vote. Among other things, the lawsuit asks that Georgia be required to secure approval from a federal judge before changing voting rules.

State election officials have said the suit is without merit and that the allegations of “unrelated actions by mostly local officials” don’t result in constitutional violations requiring intervention by a judge. They also argued election system changes should be made by lawmakers, not by the courts.

The lawsuit was filed Nov. 27 by Fair Fight Action and Care in Action Georgia, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting for the rights of domestic workers. They were joined earlier this month by several churches, including Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had preached.

The 763 pages of sworn statements from voters and poll watchers echo stories Abrams’ allies have highlighted since the November election.

An overwhelming majority of the declarations are from voters around the state who say they encountered problems, including: absentee ballots that were never received or weren’t counted; excessively long waits at polling places; missing or erroneous voter registration records; machines that switched votes or had other glitches; and not being offered provisional ballots when appropriate.

Fulton County voter Arnaud Huguet went to his polling place three times on Election Day. But he left each time because he was unable to wait in lines lasting hours, complaining the precinct only had three voting machines when he first showed up.

DeKalb County voter Sheena Brinson said she “very carefully and deliberately” selected Abrams for governor.

“However, when I selected her name, the screen blinked quickly and then showed that I had selected Brian Kemp for governor,” her declaration says. “This made my heart flutter to see this happen in front of me.”

With a poll worker’s help, she said, she believes her vote was counted. But she worried about other voters who may not have noticed a similar switch.

Bertron Beard, a Gwinnett County resident stationed at Fort Knox in Kentucky, said he registered in time but was then told his registration was received too late. Only after he provided proof that he’d registered on time was his registration updated, he said.

“I was able to vote absentee but had to be persistent to be able to vote,” his declaration says. “I did not fight in Afghanistan and Iraq to be denied my right to vote.”

Lawyers planned to submit the names of the 200-plus people who had made sworn declarations to the court Wednesday, along with a summary. But Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams’ former campaign manager who’s now CEO of Fair Fight Action, said those represent a small fraction of the voters who had problems and that all the issues together represent systemic constitutional violations.

Of particular and timely value, she said, are the many stories of problems with the state’s paperless touchscreen voting machines.

State lawmakers are currently considering options to replace the state’s outdated election system. A Republican-sponsored bill that passed the House this week on a largely party-line vote, calls for new electronic touchscreen machines that print a paper ballot.

Critics of that proposal cite the advice of cybersecurity experts, who say hand-marked paper ballots are the most secure. Groh-Wargo said lawmakers would be wise to learn from the stories they’ve collected of problems with touchscreen machines and avoid buying a costly, potentially problematic electronic system.

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  1. Election fraud? In Georgia? No way!

    A computer server crucial to a lawsuit against Georgia election officials was quietly wiped clean by its custodians just after the suit was filed, The Associated Press has learned.

    The server’s data was destroyed July 7 by technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state’s election system. The data wipe was revealed in an email sent last week from an assistant state attorney general to plaintiffs in the case that was later obtained by the AP. More emails obtained in a public records request confirmed the wipe.

    The lawsuit, filed July 3 by a diverse group of election reform advocates, aims to force Georgia to retire its antiquated and heavily criticized election technology. The server in question, which served as a statewide staging location for key election-related data, made national headlines in June after a security expert disclosed a gaping security hole that wasn’t fixed six months after he reported it to election authorities.

    WIPED OUT

    It’s not clear who ordered the server’s data irretrievably erased.

    The Kennesaw elections center answers to Georgia’s secretary of state, Brian Kemp, a Republican running for governor in 2018

  2. The lawsuit says “gross mismanagement” of the election deprived citizens of their right to vote.

    A feature, not a bug.

  3. Avatar for ajm ajm says:

    Purchase more insecure touch screen machines?

    Feature not a bug.

    Rhetorical question: Why does the Georgia GOP hate voters?

  4. I was a poll watcher in a section serving Rome/Lindale. We had long lines. Folks told me they usually had a five to eight minute wait if any during past elections. At one point the wait was well over an hour. Poll workers told me they usually had ten or eleven voting machines instead of the eight for 2018. When I attended the next Elections Board meeting, I asked why they had fewer machines. They told me the number was based on the low turnout in the previous midterm election. They basically didn’t take into account it was a highly competitive race. It was a convenient miscalculation.

  5. Avatar for ljb860 ljb860 says:

    Critics of that proposal cite the advice of cybersecurity experts, who say hand-marked paper ballots are the most secure. Groh-Wargo said lawmakers would be wise to learn from the stories they’ve collected of problems with touchscreen machines and avoid buying a costly, potentially problematic electronic system.

    Well can’t have the simple method, just how are we to cheat as stuffing the box becomes readily apparent soon after it is done. Then again purchasing new gives us (1) a “friend” makes a load of cash from the taxpayers, (2) gives us new opportunities to build in flaws that benefit our side.

Continue the discussion at forums.talkingpointsmemo.com

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