State Board of Elections Discusses June 9 Primary in 7/1/20 Meeting

State Board of Elections Discusses June 9 Primary in 7-1-20 Meeting

Summary:

  • State Board of Elections approves amended emergency rules:
  • RULE 183-1-14-0.6-.14 Secure Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes 
  • RULE 183-1-14-0.7-.15 Processing Absentee Ballots Prior to Election Day
  • Voters and members of organizations dedicated to protecting the right to vote speak of issues they witnessed during the June 9 primary. 

Notes from Georgia State Board of Elections Meeting 07-1-20

Meeting Notes from Attendee:

  • David Whorley: I think the secretary should be complimented for mailing out absentee ballot applications to every person/every respective voter in the run up to the primary. I think the current pandemic made that entirely necessary. I think the conditions that led up to the mailing of those absentee ballots applications continue and will be continuing months leading up to the November election. I think it’s imperative for the secretary to do that again.
    • I know he’s been subject to criticism from people in his own party about that, but I think the current situation demands that absentee ballots be mailed out to voters again in advance for the November election. As the secretary noted, we might have three times as many people wanting to vote in November as voted in the primary.
    • If we do not have the very robust absentee ballot program, we will see an absolute disaster in the polls in November.
    • I just wanted to encourage the secretary to reconsider his position about mailing out absentee ballot applications between now and November election.
  • Speaker: Sorry that the lines were long because of a pandemic. People said they would stay as long as it takes. I’m so proud of voters. There are things that can be done better.
    • For example, the Secretary’s suggestion to place an IT technician at each and every precinct especially in Fulton County at opening time to make sure the machine and scanners are up and running is a great idea and I wholeheartedly support. Every state had strikingly similar issues. The same night as our election in Washington people were in line past minutes.
    • The Secretary of State warned about often and early long wait times, sanitation and absentee ballots would cause long wait times. The absentee ballots caused over a million people to vote early. Because of budget shortfalls, the money for postage would have to come from another area – Shifting from snail mail to online … I applaud the secretary’s initiative so that people could learn how to vote by mail.
    • I agree with the decision to send applications for the June election. I was encouraged to personally observe Fulton Counties passing their audit. Statewide, 159 counties, there were relative bumps and hiccups. In my home county, Bartow we did well. One location needed to be unlocked.
    • The Secretary of State is being proactive and setting up a system for requesting absentee ballots. Even now, you can go online and request one. There were 6 million people who got the absentee ballot applications who didn’t use them. I agree the Secretary of State did a good job sending the absentee ballot applications for June 9.

Public Comment:

  • Gene Dufort: I’m a Morgan County voter, first Vice Chair of Morgan Democrats and the coalition for Good Governance.
    • Those of us who believe in the new system and those who do not can agree the staff have exhausted themselves and voters stepped up. They should be congratulated instead the Secretary of State offers blame most of the time except today. The new system had a stress test beyond what anyone had imagined.
    • Thank you for extending the two rules you are considering today. Over last year the Coalition for Good Governance has suggested rules to improve the voter experience. Things could have been better if you had adopted our rules. It’s not too late for November. Please consider them as you consider emergency rules.
  • Shay Roberts: I’m a Fulton county voter and a democratic nominee for State House 52.
    • The Emergency paper ballot rule should win an award for the best idea kept locked in a broom closet. Take a hard look at the training material you developed to support this rule because virtually no counties were prepared to use the rule. With such a critical new rule it’s important that the training materials are clear.
    • Counties must know: 1. The difference between provisional and emergency ballots. Provisional ballots are when voters can’t be fully checked in, may be in the wrong place, may not provide proper id. Voters may mark a provisional ballot but do not cast it in precinct. They don’t always count. Emergency paper ballots  are used when the machine cant function or when wait time exceeds 30 minutes. Voters can both mark a paper ballot and cast it at the precinct scanner. Emergency ballots ALWAYS count. We believe that the emergency paper ballot rule could increase capacity for in person voting. Marking a paper ballot is actually faster than using the tablet and printer. With record turnout for the November election proper implementation of the emergency paper ballot rule just makes sense.
  • Commenter: Couldn’t hear. The sound was garbled.
  • Isabelle Gambino: I’m a Fulton County voter.
    • Demand for absentee ballots soared in the last election. This rule will reduce administrating handling while increasing voter certainty that their votes have been accepted. The rule designates an absentee ballot clerk in each early and election day polling place, giving voters the option of delivering their ballot at any place.
    • Special absentee ballot lines be established. Allowing voters to vote at election day precincts would reduce mail work. Allow voters to cast ballots at their home precinct on election day. Voters with problems working on computer screens. It costs less to process a mail ballot than in person. Georgia was a national joke.
  • Joy Wason: Dekalb County voter.
    • We are likely to see huge numbers at the next election. I saw poll pads down on election day at poll opening and countless voters waiting hours to vote. In November counties must deploy more poll pads. One poll pad per every 1000 registered voters in a precinct should be the minimum required. In addition, an emergency voter check-in rule as counterpart to your emergency paper ballot rule. Two Coalition for Good Governance proposed rules would help. First is a required poll book back ups be required in every precinct and used when the poll pads are not working or when the check in line exceeds 30 minutes…. Second- to allow people to cast a paper ballot if they are in a precinct shown on their my voter page. The back up paper poll book would be printed after records are updated from early voting. Adding paper poll book stations is a low cost way to expand capacity and reduce wait times.
  • Liz Troup: Thank you, I’m from Dekalb.
    • It’s timely and urgent that recount procedures are  updated for the new voting system. There have been close contests in this election. Yesterday a recount in Gwinnett was settled by counting votes for only two out of five candidates. We’ve proposed amendments to the recount rules. I’ve observed ballot counting across Georgia and met officials doing their best. Recount issues. Your guidance could prevent problems. QR codes- for any election to have a meaningful count, must have a meaningful recount. If there’s a recount, there must be a thorough audit prior to that recount.
  • Eilene Nacamora (spelling?): Had the state election board done its job, with proper procedures, June 9 would have not been such a problem.
    • Secretary of State used an outside vendor in Arizona to send absentee ballots to Georgia voters and while it was a good idea he did not have the authority to do so. Those absentee ballots themselves broke the law in two ways: 
      • 1. They were not sent out with an inner envelope to protect ballot secrecy. 
      • 2. They had the wrong date of May 19. 
    • Some people threw away absentee ballots because they did not realize it was their ballot.
    • In Athens-Clarke County, can attest when they try to obey all voting rules they could not do so using the touch screen voting machine. The Secretary of State and this board held a 7 hour meeting for the county that they must use the equipment and  threatened lawsuit to counties who wanted to use paper ballots.
    • Let’s talk about the most important rule, the recount rule, ballot secrecy (which is one of the laws……..clarke tried to preserve), audit rules (nonexistent but crucial). They must ensure that every vote counts which should be the fundamental goal of election. It did not happen in this election.
  • Libby Seeger (sp?): Voter Fulton county and student- President of Young Democrats.
    • Social distancing has changed how we do early voting. Ballot secrecy is granted in the Georgia constitution and also is required by the Help America Vote Act…. Law says voters must be able to vote in secrecy and is not optional. When I voted on June 9, I could see everybody’s screen when I voted and there was no effort to reduce Covid 19.
    • The secretary of state chose these Dominion tablets. What is your response to counties? All 33,000 machines will have to be used on election day in Nov.
  • Rhonda Martin: Atlanta and with the Coalition of Good Governance.
    • Key to ensuring votes cast are counted in the risk limited audits… (I watched as people lined up to roll the fille and suited the generator)… In order for an audit to be valid, you must have trusted source documents showing the votes that have been cast. Hand marked paper ballots are trusted source documents. The electronic marking devices- less than half the voters carefully check their ballot. Further, even when they try to verify the paper summary, less then half noticed when errors were introduced.
    • My ballot from the June 9 election had over 40 content. Very few humans can memorize touch screen content at the level needed for accuracy and completeness.
  • Commenter: Immediately ban the use of software application settings being used to suppress certain mail ballots and provisional ballot votes.
    • There are thousands of legal votes not being counted because of this software. Georgia law protects the voter by mandating every mark for which the voter intend can be determined must count. The software application is programmed to disobey this mandate. The scanners read the hand mark vote, the votes are recorded but then the  system is instructed not to count the votes if non-uniform marks. Scandal is that the system is not counting all of the votes. Some counties are trying to compensate by hand duplicating. Not normal – other states 1% of ballots need to be duplicated.
    • In Gwinnett, 13 votes separated two candidates. The Board refused to count some of the ballots. The state should order the counting of all votes.
  • Commenter: Couldn’t hear speaker- talked about changes about drop boxes
    • Processing absentee ballots- Some of the changes we’re making are getting rid of reference to June 9. Dropbox rule- One change is the deleting the reference to the June 9 election only. It will still be an emergency rule in place for six months. To make it permanent we would have to go over the rule making process which I envision us doing. Dropbox rules: the boxes have to be emptied once every 24 hrs for some counties, dropboxes should be checked once every 72 hrs- in more crowded areas more than that, a week before the election should be once every day.”
    • Telling when we’re going to start, the new notification procedures require the county to say when they’re going to start but that made it difficult for people to know exactly when it was going to happen every day so  the new notification procedure requires the county to say when they are doing early processing on a daily basis.
    • I’m happy to take questions from the board on that.

Break from Public Comments to Approve Emergency Rules

  • Matt Mashburn: Out of respect for colleague Worley, I make a move that both are accepted. Seconded.
  • David Worley: Appreciate board’s consideration that I have a work commitment, deposition. I can stay until 9:45 am to allow a full discussion. Both rules worked well in the primary and should be adopted for the general election. 
  • Approved Emergency Rules: 183-1-14-0.6-14 and 183-1-14-0.7-15 

Public Comments Resume

  • Commenter: I’d like to start by saying board member Mashburn’s comment was inaccurate. What occurred on Monday was not a logic inaccuracy test (he’s talking really fast because he’s upset so i’m not catching all words) It was in fact a risk of being audited perhaps before becoming a state election board  member you should know the difference.
    • I listened to Gabriel Sterling, the statewide voting system of the nation manager flat out lie to the government affair committee last week when asked if they were going to use Runbeck, the company that printed ballots on the other side of the country in Arizona, for the presidential election. He said and I quote, “There is no Georgia vendor that can do this.” No that’s not true there was a big Gabreo (the Georgia Association of  Voter  Registration of Election Officials) conference in December in Savannah, and at that conference one of the vendors was talnal whose base is in Resfil. They have been printing ballots for Georgia since the early 1960s.
    • Furthermore, in 2008 (this is straight from the literature) they been printing optical scan ballots and are currently a certified printer of Dominion voting system .Why we chose to use Runbeck? I’d like to hear from Dominion people – mentioned names …extremely upset…calling people out until his time ran up!
    • Matt Mashburn: Personal insults against the Secretary of State’s staff are out of order, and I’m all for free speech. Attacks on me are fine. But any attacks on the staff I will immediately move that the speaker is out of order and time will be cut off.
  • Aklima Khondaker: I’m a Butts county voter, and I am the Georgia state director for All Voting is Local.
    • I’m also a voting rights advocate and a lawyer. What I heard today overwhelmingly is that we have inconsistencies in our election administration between and among counties, and I echo many of the solutions on this call and request a follow up after the meeting.
    • We need more uniform requirements if we hope to have elections that run smoothly. Successful elections require standards and uniformity among all counties so voters have equal access.
    • David Whorley said we need more absentee ballots. I think I heard from Gabriel Sterling say that the last voting site in Georgia closed officially at 10:30 pm. There was a polling location in Fulton Christian City where the last ballot was cast after midnight with police intimidating.
    • The conditions on election day were very horrendous for certain voters while they may not have been for others. Drop boxes need to be in every county. It must be mandated and paid for by the state so voters from all 159 counties can have equal access to the ballot.
    • Voters also need clearer and more accessible information about the drop boxes. Information must be published on more forums and not just on the county… Aklima is cut off.
  • Commenter: I serve on Clarke county vote review panel. X marks and check marks are acceptable.
    • When the voters intent can be clearly discern all votes must be counted. In Clarke, we learned that the absentee ballot scanner was programmed to classify votes in three ways based on the percentage of the circle that was shaded. When the circle was darkened 12 percent or less, it was classified as a blank contest and was flagged that way. Voters that used X marks or check marks, their votes went uncounted.
    • I know in Oglethorpe County, ballots were marked for adjudication. Problem I’m seeing is that different counties use different settings for ballot counting. Please instruct Dominion to flag ballots marked with 1% of filled in. 
    • Reply: X or check marks is out of date. The statute out there does not apply to current system. The oval must be filled in.
  • Jasmine Clarke: Thank you for considering and adopting the extension of those rules. We can all see what’s happening with the coronavirus. If we are in a worse situation than June 9 then we can anticipate fewer poll workers, high demand for absentee ballots, and more voters that vote in person.
    • I’m encouraged that we are going to extend absentee ballot drop boxes. I ask you to make them permanent.
    • Encouraged that you let us open absentee ballots even earlier than you had for the June 9 primary. I encourage David Worley to send out absentee ballot applications. I know there is a cost, but most people don’t follow these meetings and know about how to apply for absentee ballots online.
    • We are going to see an unprecedented number of votes in November. Need more machines. We want this done right and timely.
    • Emergency ballots – was not clear. Precincts in Gwinnett didn’t know what to do and gave provisional ballots and not emergency ballots
  • Wanda Mosely: I’m a Fulton County voter and with Black Voters Matter. What I saw on June 9 was a disaster. We made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
    • At 12:35 am I saw the last voter in Christian City vote. Voting right advocates estimate about 52 percent of all Georgians resided in a county where polling times had to be extended beyond 7:00 pm.
    • Hotline said 70 percent of all the calls they got on June 9 were from the state of Georgia. Having websites on the state website- not all 159 counties have a website. There’s no way to expect uniformity and equity where Randolph- small county and Fulton the largest county in the state. Need to advocate for all 159 counties, especially smaller counties. Can’t have the same expectations on counties with under 10,000 people as we do with Fulton, Cobb, and DeKalb. The state must come forward and help these counties. 
  • Laura Walker: Muscogee county voter. My husband and I retired from 25 years of army service where we voted absentee (which we had extreme faith in).
    • I am the chair of the Muscogee County Democrats and a Fair Fight Action volunteer, and through those two organizations I did a lot of outreach prior to the primary— the text and phone to answer voters’ questions. I can tell you that many Georgia voters were confused and not confident at all.
    • I urge the board to adopt the following actions using the money leftover from the $1 billion the federal government allocated to us. 1) To ensure proper training of county officials. 2) Mail ballots to all voters not just active, create a central processing center across GA for mail ballots, mandate paper ballot backups, fully fund technicians, drop boxes, inspect every polling location.
  • Hillary Holly: Organizing director for Fair Fight Action- June 9 elections met with the Covid 19 obstacle. County drop boxes were welcome. We ask that the state mandate drop boxes in all of Georgia’s 159 counties so all voters have access. Thousands of voters have told us, have shared their experience with us… voters told us of their ballots rejected when dropped off before 7 pm (too late to be counted?). Have all elections officials trained to use the novel drop boxes. They are an asset to expanding ballot access but must be properly maintained and counties must have the proper resources to apply them. This guidance must be developed quickly. Please act now. 
  • Garland Favorito: Mr. Chairman, Georgia was ridiculed about the election. Not a single election
    • Georgia counties certified election results without auditing. No meaningful recount was done because of QR codes. Adjudication found defects that tens of thousands of votes should have been included. Election day voters were forced to cast votes on an unsecure system banned in Colorado and Texas. The old system was ruled unconstitutional. The public will never trust this system no matter how much you spend trying to get voters to.
  • Alyssa G.: Thanks Secretary of State for sending out absentee ballots and thanks Mr. Whorley for comments.
    • Virus is increasing. We need to take care of voters and understand postal issues. Maybe we could use local vendors. The online system- not all counties or voters have. Thank you for passing the emergency rules today. QR codes are an issue- only count number of votes cast, not the hand vote. We don’t know if what’s written on receipt is in the QR code. Need to have paper books to check people in versus poll books. 
    • Answer: Paper poll books are at the polling locations currently.
  • End of Public Comments
  • David Whorley: This is Mr. Raburn’s last meeting. He’s done a very good job for the Secretary of State’s office. The rules proposed by the Coalition for Good Governance were proposed earlier. I said at the time that I thought the rule on mail ballot return was a good proposal but elections officials couldn’t adopt. Proposed rule number two on my voter precinct- not necessary. Rule 3 proposal about paper poll book backup was not really necessary. Now I feel that they are necessary and I support those three proposed rules and make a motion now that we adopt them.
    • There was no second and the motion failed.
  • Speaker: I echo Mr. Whorley about Kenneth Raburn. He has been promoted to… He will be serving elections across the country. Our loss is the country’s gain.
  • Speaker: Kenneth Raburn has solid integrity and I wish him well.
  • Meeting adjourned

Emergency Rules as sent by the State Elections Board to 7-1-20 Meeting Participants by email

RULES OF STATE ELECTION BOARD                

CHAPTER 183-1

GEORGIA ELECTION CODE                

SUBJECT 183-1-14

ABSENTEE VOTING

TABLE OF CONTENTS

183-1-14-0.6-.14 Secure Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes

RULE 183-1-14-0.6-.14 Secure Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes

(1) For the Elections held on June 9, 2020, County registrars are authorized to establish one or more drop box locations as a means for absentee by mail electors to deliver their ballots to the county registrars. Placing a voted absentee ballot into the drop box shall be deemed delivery pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-2-385 and is subject to the limitations on who may deliver a ballot on behalf of an elector. 

(2) A drop box shall only be located on county or municipal government property generally accessible to the public.

(3) Drop box locations may open beginning 49 days before Election Day and shall close at 7:00 p.m. on Election Day. On Election Day, every drop box shall be closed and ballots collected at 7:00 p.m. Prior to opening a drop box for a new election, the registrar shall ensure that the drop box is empty. Any person acting on behalf of the registrar who opens a drop box prior to an election must have sworn an oath in the same form as the oath for poll officers set forth in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-95 prior to opening the drop box and shall sign a form indicating that the drop box was empty and secure at the time of opening. Counties shall provide notice of the location of each drop box by posting such information on the home page of the county election website no later than the day the drop boxes are placed in a location. 

(4) Drop box locations must have adequate lighting and use a video recording device to monitor each drop box location. The video recording device must either continuously record the drop box location or use motion detection that records one frame, or more, per minute until detection of motion triggers continuous recording.

(5) Video recordings of the drop box locations must be retained by the county registrars for 30 days after the final certification of the election, or until conclusion of any contest involving an election on the ballot in the county jurisdiction, whichever is later, and shall be made available to Secretary of State investigators upon request.

(6) A drop box shall be constructed of durable material able to withstand vandalism and inclement weather. The opening slot of a drop box shall not allow ballots to be tampered with or removed and shall be designed to minimize the ability for liquid to be poured into the drop box or rain water to seep in.

(7) A drop box shall be securely fastened to the ground or an immovable fixture.

(8) If the drop box utilizes a drop-slot into a building, the ballots must drop into a locked container, and both the drop-slot and the container must be monitored by video recording devices.

(9) A drop box shall be clearly labeled “OFFICIAL ABSENTEE BALLOT DROP BOX”. Each drop box location shall clearly display signage developed by the Secretary of State regarding Georgia law related to absentee ballot harvesting and destroying, defacing, or delaying delivery of ballots.

(10) Prior to the second Monday before Election Day, the county registrars must arrange for collection of the ballots from each drop box at least once every 72 hours. Beginning on the second Monday before Election Day and up until 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, tThe county registrars must arrange for collection of the ballots from each drop box location at least once every 24 hours. On Election Day, every drop box shall be closed and ballots collected at 7:00 p.m. Collection of ballots from a drop box must be made by a team of at least two people. Any person collecting ballots from a drop box must have sworn an oath in the same form as the oath for poll officers set forth in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-95. The collection team shall complete and sign a ballot transfer form upon removing the ballots from the drop box, which shall include the date, time, location and number of ballots. After emptying the drop box on 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, the collection team shall close the drop box and indicate on the ballot transfer form that the drop box was emptied and closed. The ballots from the drop box shall be immediately transported to the county registrar and processed and stored in the same manner as absentee ballots returned by mail are processed and stored. The county registrar or a designee thereof shall sign the ballot transfer form upon receipt of the ballots from the collection team.

Authority: O.C.G.A. § 21-2-31

RULES OF STATE ELECTION BOARD

CHAPTER 183-1 GEORGIA ELECTION CODE

SUBJECT 183-1-14 ABSENTEE VOTING

TABLE OF CONTENTS

183-1-14-0.7-.15 Processing Absentee Ballots Prior to Election Day

RULE 183-1-14-0.7-.15 Processing Absentee Ballots Prior to Election Day

(1) For the Elections held on June 9, 2020, Bbeginning at 8:00 a.m. on the second Monday prior to Election Day, county election superintendents shall be authorized to open the outer envelope of accepted absentee ballots, remove the contents including the absentee ballot, and scan the absentee ballot using one or more ballot scanners, in accordance with this rule, and may continue until all accepted absentee ballots are processed. However, no person shall tally, tabulate, estimate or attempt to tally, tabulate or estimate or cause the voting equipment to produce any tally or tabulation, partial or otherwise, of the absentee votes cast until the time for the closing of the polls on Election Day.

(2) Absentee ballots shall be processed in batches of not more than 100. At least three persons who are registrars, deputy registrars, poll workers, or absentee ballot clerks must be present at all times during the processing of a batch of absentee ballots.

(3) Outer envelopes shall be opened in such a manner as not to destroy the oath and signature of the voter.

(4) All outer envelopes in a batch shall be counted and recorded on a reconciliation form prior to opening the outer envelopes of a batch. Upon opening the outer envelopes of a batch, the contents shall be removed in a manner that ensures that the contents of the envelope cannot be matched back to the outer envelope. Once all of the outer envelopes of a batch have been opened and the contents removed, the inner envelopes and/or secrecy sleeves shall be opened and the absentee ballots removed. Once all of the absentee ballots have been removed, the number of ballots shall be counted and recorded on a reconciliation form and compared to the original count of outer envelopes in the batch. Any discrepancy shall be investigated and recorded on a reconciliation form. The form shall be signed by the officials processing the batch of ballots. The absentee ballots shall then be scanned on a ballot scanner. A batch number assigned by the ballot scanner shall be recorded on the reconciliation form for that batch. Any ballot that is so torn, bent, or otherwise defective that it cannot be processed by the scanner shall be duplicated pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-2-483. Vote review panels shall be established, as needed, to adjudicate any rejected ballots per O.C.G.A. § 21-2-483 and Rule 183-1-15-.02. Once successfully scanned, the batch of ballots shall be bound together with the reconciliation form (or a copy thereof) and the official who scanned the ballots shall notate on the reconciliation form that the batch has been scanned, including the date and location of the scanning, and initial notation. The scanned absentee ballots shall then be secured in a container. More than one batch of scanned absentee ballots may be placed in the container, but the individual batches must be separately bound. A security seal shall be placed on the container. The batch number(s), the number of scanned absentee ballots in each batch, and the security seal number shall be recorded on the container.

(5) If the county election superintendent chooses to prepare and/or scan absentee ballots prior to Election Day according to this Rule, the superintendent shall notify the Secretary of State in writing at least seven days prior to processing absentee ballots.

(6) The proceedings described in this rule shall be open to the view of the public, but no person except one employed and designated for the purpose by the superintendent shall touch any ballot or ballot container. The state executive committee of each political party and political body having candidates whose names appear on the ballot in such county shall have the right to designate two persons and each independent and nonpartisan candidate whose name appears on the ballot in such county shall have the right to designate one person to act as monitors for such process. The designated monitors shall be given a letter by the designating entity containing the name of the monitor, his or her address, and the county in which he or she may monitor the process. A copy of the letter designating the monitor shall be delivered to the county elections superintendent prior to the monitor being allowed to monitor the process. Each monitor shall wear a name tag indicating their name and the entity that designated them while monitoring the process. Any other observer shall be required to wear a name tag that indicates their name and that they are a public observer. The superintendent may make reasonable regulations, including regulations regarding social distancing measures and required personal protective equipment, that designated monitors and observers shall follow so that they do not interfere in any way with the processing of ballots or conduct of the election. If a monitor or observer interferes with the processing of the ballots or conduct of the election after being duly warned by an election official or superintendent, or if he or she violates any of the prohibited activities in this rule, the superintendent may revoke the person’s designation to monitor the process, remove them from any further monitoring or observing, and refer the incident to the Secretary of State’s office for investigation. Any infraction or irregularity observed by a monitor or observer shall be reported to the superintendent or to the Secretary of State. No person whose name is on the ballot shall be eligible to serve as a designated monitor.

(7) While viewing the process set forth in this rule, monitors and observers are prohibited from: 

(a) In any way interfering with the processing of absentee ballots or conduct of the election;

(b) Using or bringing in to the room any photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording devices, cellular telephones, or computers;

(c) Engaging in any form of campaigning or campaign activity; 

(d) Taking any action that endangers the secrecy and security of the ballots; (e) Touching any ballot or ballot container;

(f) Tallying, tabulating, estimating, or attempting to tally, tabulate, or estimate, whether partial or otherwise, any of the votes on the absentee ballots cast; and

(g) Communicating any information that they see, whether intentionally or inadvertently, about any ballot, vote, or selection to anyone other than to an election official who needs to such information to lawfully carry out his or her official duties.

(8) Before being allowed to view the process set forth in this rule, each designated monitor and observer shall execute an oath swearing or affirming, under penalty of perjury, that they understand the prohibitions set forth above, that they will not engage in any prohibited activity, and that they understand any violations of this rule will be punishable by the State Election Board.

(9) The county election superintendent shall publish a written notice, containing the dates, start and end times, and location(s) where absentee ballots will be processed and any rejected ballots will be adjudicated. Such notice shall be posted in the superintendent’s office, and on the homepage of the county election website, and sent to the Secretary of State’s office at least seven days prior to scanning ballots in accordance with this rule. The Secretary of State shall publish on his website the information he receives from counties stating the dates, times and locations where absentee ballots will be processed and adjudicated.

(10) Any person involved in processing absentee ballots according to this rule shall swear an oath, in the same form as the oath for poll officers set forth in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-95, prior to beginning the processing of absentee ballots.

(11) All cell phones, laptops, audio or video recording devices, and other communication devices shall be prohibited from the room where processing of absentee ballots is taking place, except for county election computers necessary to carry out this rule or otherwise conduct the election. No information concerning the tally of votes, or any partial tally of votes, shall be communicated until the time for the closing of the polls on Election day.

(12) The county superintendent shall be permitted to designate locations where public observers may view the process described in this rule to protect the security and secrecy of the ballots. Monitors designated by political parties, political bodies, and independent and non-partisan candidates shall be allowed to monitor the process described in this rule, but they must do so in a way that does not interfere with election officials. The superintendent may designate locations that allow designated monitors to monitor the process set forth in this rule, and such locations shall include areas that allow credentialed monitors to view the batching of the ballots, reconciliation of envelopes to ballots, scanning the ballots, duplication of ballots, adjudication of ballots by vote review panels, sealing the ballots after scanning, and other such areas as the superintendent may deem necessary to the assurance of fair and honest procedures in the carrying out of the procedures set forth in this rule.

Authority: O.C.G.A. § 21-2-31

For more information, contact the State Board of Elections at (404) 656-2871.


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