In our 5th installment of our Georgia Election Integrity Series we explained how the Georgia General Assembly moved SB241 and HB531 election omnibus bills through their respective House and Senate chambers into opposite chamber committees for vetting. Just as it appeared that one of those decoy bills might become law, the GA House resorted to its often used “Political Taxidermy” trick. Instead, of passing one of those bills they stuffed what they wanted out of both those bills into SB202 a small two-page bill intended only to ensure mail-in ballot applications were mailed to registered voters only.
The House uses this technique so that it does not have to vet new bill language in a Senate Committee where it will be exposed to more public criticism. Since SB202 had already passed the Senate, House Special Elections Committee chairman Barry Fleming was able to stuff the “elephant” omnibus language into the tiny “ant” SB202 bill in committee. After such a bill passes the House, it only needs to go back to the Senate floor for a vote on accepting the House changes. The House and Senate leadership agreed in advance on the content, so SB202 content passed both bodies on Thursday and the governor signed the bill into law on Friday to take effect July 1. That is record time for any bill, much less an omnibus bill!
So why the trickery this time? It was probably because of the shift from signature matching to driver license or other ID number requirements. The DL# would be entered on the inside of the envelope when the application or ballot is returned to the county for processing. Those without Drivers Licenses would include a photo copy of their ID instead. The license number would be matched against voter registration records in lieu of a signature match. Supporters contend the process will eliminate the subjectivity of matching signatures which was called into question in the last election. Critics contend the new process favors those with drivers licenses unequally. Suits have already been filed and the courts will likely decide. The rest of the bill is somewhat of a mixed bag from a non-partisan perspective.
In fairness, there are many good things about the bill. For example, it:
1. Makes ballot images publicly available under Open Records Request law (51)
2. Requires that the General Assembly elect a Non-Partisan chairperson to replace the Secretary of State on the State Election Board (5)
3. Eliminates private funding of elections, any forces any future funding to be equitable (9, 24)
4. Grants authority for the Secretary of State (SOS) to use 3rd parties to identify out of state, deceased or otherwise ineligible voters (17)
5. Limits precinct size to 2,000 voters if a precinct incurs a line of one hour or more during voting (18)
6. Limits use of mobile precincts to circumstances when actual precinct emergencies occur (20)
7. Implements ballot security paper for overseas (UOCAVA) voters (23)
8. Requires absentee ballot applicants to submit applications 11 days prior to election (25)
9. Requires SOS to make and online mail-in ballot application portal available to voters (25)
10. Allows ballot applications from 3rd parties to be only to voters who have not requested, received or voted a mail-in ballot (25)
11. Requires counties to report daily absentee ballot status tracking (28)
12. Requires county to continuously tabulate mail-in ballots after process starts (36)
13. Replaces single individual with duplication panel to mark ballot when damaged by scanner (39)
But perhaps the single best decision made by the legislature was to continue no excuse absentee voting. Had that been eliminated legislators would have forced voters to cast votes in person on a QR coded accumulation system that is 100% unverifiable to the voter.
New Fraud Opportunities
If all that sounds too good to be true, you are right to be suspicious. There are some pretty bad provisions in SB202 also. For example:
• It allows drop boxes to continue to be established disproportionally across counties in stand- alone locations that are not monitored by election workers. The drop boxes can be stuffed because video surveillance is not made readily available to the public upon request. This keeps the newly opened door open for ballot harvesting fraud that cannot be detected before election results are certified. This fraud vulnerability was implemented at taxpayer expense and in gross violation of the Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions (27)
• It authorizes the already ineffective State Election Board to suspend county superintendents. Such language violates the sovereignty of counties and allows the highly partisan board to remove whistle blowers. (6,7)
• It allows mail-in ballots to be scanned two weeks prior to the Monday before the election. Previous law allows the ballot envelopes to be opened, the ballot signatures to be verified and the ballots to be prepped for scanning. Scanning the ballots onto memory sticks presents a security problem for properly maintaining the scanned votes during that two-week period. This opens the door to a new type of fraud involving memory stick replacement. (28)
• It creates another equal protection conflict by implementing Ranked Choice Voting for military and overseas (UOCAVA) voters. This eliminates runoffs for those voters who have a 45-day period to vote and thus reduces the overall time frame needed for runoffs. But even if Ranked Choice Voting is a desirable concept, it must be applied equally to all Georgia voters when implemented. This also presents a new security problem in preserving UOCAVA ballots for the runoff and retabulating two different types of ballots for a runoff
But the most important SB202 consideration is not what is in the bill but what is missing:
• There is no provision is public inspection of physical ballots. If counterfeit ballots are suspected, such as the current case in progress against Fulton Co., the public still has no right to view or inspect them. They must still spend many months and thousands of dollars to get the ballots unsealed so that they can verify whether or not there is election fraud.
• There is no provision to make county election server images available for forensic examination. Pre-election testing cannot guarantee correct system performance on Election Day. Without post-election forensic examinations of county election management servers Georgia voters will never have confidence in the certified Dominion election results.
So while the Georgia Republican establishment touts some good features of SB202 to their constituents, the truth is that the bill does little to prevent the potential types of election worker and voting system fraud that evidence points to for the November 3rd 2020 election.