For months after the questionable November, 2020 election results, the Arizona legislature fought hard to implement transparent elections. Their efforts resulted in a court decision last week that should allow a visual and forensic inspection of over two million Arizona ballots cast.
Meanwhile, the Georgia legislature continues to suppress attempts to provide transparent elections as the House and Senate moved HB531 and SB241 “omnibus” bills toward the Senate floor yesterday. Neither of the omnibus bills address election fraud revealed by testimony at a House committee and two Senate sub-committee hearings in December, nor do they address the evidence of fraud defined in court cases filed by Georgia voters at their own expense.
To deceive the public, Republican and Democrat politicians created classic false opposing dialogues. Democrat leaders claim there was no fraud while Republican leaders say they need to implement “voter fraud” prevention measures. The truth is that the November election was riddled with election fraud and related errors as we have briefly outlined in our 1st, 2nd and 3rd installments of our Georgia Election Integrity series. That evidence shows fraud was likely committed not by voters, but by election officials or those close to them.
A key in preventing election fraud by election officials is to operate transparent elections that hold them accountable. That means:
These steps can build voter confidence in otherwise untrustworthy elections like those conducted in Georgia and are relatively easy to accomplish. Ballot images can be automatically uploaded to county web sites for public display and an Elections Director needs only to run a one-hour job to make an image copy of their elections server available for forensic inspections.
But the two omnibus bills do nothing to prevent the type of election fraud that subverted the November 2020 election results from occurring again. Even if every measure in both bills is adopted, ballots, ballot images and system images will not be made publicly available so that citizens can have proper oversight of their own elections. Thus, Georgia leaders are trying to prevent voters from looking behind the curtain in their new version of “Wizard of Oz” voting.
The man behind the legislative curtain in Georgia’s “Wizard of Oz” voting scheme is Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem). Fleming was elected to the Georgia House in 2002, the year Georgia’s original unverifiable voting system was installed. House Speaker David Ralston currently tasked Fleming with creating a new HB531 omnibus bill to fix HB316, his previous omnibus bill that required the least secure, most expensive option imaginable and led to the November, 2020 election disaster. The bill was sponsored in 2019 only by Ralston’s leadership team members. It paved the way for new Secretary of State (SoS) Brad Raffensperger to purchase the Dominion Democracy Suite 5.5 system after Texas rejected it for security reasons. Colorado also banned it for unverifiability.
HB316 legalized unverifiable voting that accumulates votes in bar codes the voter cannot read. The bill also authorized a new form of “ballotless” paper summary instead of a full ballot like those used for mail-in voting. SB241, authored by Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, now proposes to force voters to vote on unverifiable voting equipment and give up real mail-in ballots by eliminating Georgia’s no excuse absentee balloting. The Georgia Senate is expected to pass that bill this week. HB531 has already passed the House with language that requires voters to turn in mail-in ballots 11 days in advance and prevents the SOS from delaying certification to complete audits even though they are critical to preventing election fraud.
In 2019, Fleming and Dugan ignored all cost considerations in passing the HB316 unverifiable voting bill over objections from citizens who wanted a much less costly, Hand Marked Paper Ballot (HMPB) solution. That would have saved over $50 million and $10 million more annually in testing, maintenance, licensing fees and logistics according to VoterGA cost estimates and an [OSET] Institute analysis. VoterGA recommended that HMPB with Ballot on Demand (BOD) be evaluated as a solution to support county Election Directors but Fleming and Dugan never considered it.
Fleming also never obtained the required fiscal note that provides details of expenditures by the state and the funding impacts on counties for new mandates. Georgia law requires a fiscal note for “any bill having a significant impact on the anticipated revenue or expenditure level of any state department, bureau, board, council, committee, commission, or other state agency”. It also requires a fiscal note for any expenditure “which in the aggregate exceeds $5 million of public funds by local political subdivisions”. Dugan and all but one Republican voted for the bill without the note. HB316 further obligates Georgians to pay interest on a 20-year bond for a system that has a 10 year shelf life. [O.C.G.A 28.5.42, O.C.G.A 28.5.49]
But it gets worse. Fleming has a horrible history of ignoring the will of Georgia voters on voting system matters. While moving HB316 through various committees and chairing the SAFE Voting System Commission, Fleming ignored objections from hundreds of citizens, a Georgia Tech study, correspondence from 24 computer scientists, a report from the cybersecurity expert of Georgia’s SAFE voting system commission and a letter from the inventor of risk limiting audits. They urged Fleming to avoid bar code voting systems and recommended that Ballot Marking Devices (BMD) should be limited to disabled voters because they are not secure enough and not properly auditable for mass deployment.
Fleming also ignored VoterGA’s 2018 SAFE Commission recommendations for verifiable voting equipment and ballot transparency in addition to security, auditability, recount and secrecy provisions. Even lobbying efforts from the Trump 2020 campaign intelligence security advisor, Lt Col. Tony Shaffer could not talk Fleming or Dugan to change the language that led Georgia into the 2020 election disaster. For all these reasons, HB316 was dubbed “Barry’s Boondoggle” and this wizard is unwilling, if not unable, to lead us out of the Land of Oz.
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