State Election Board Special Called Meeting 08/10/20

Summary:

  • Election workers will now be able to start processing absentee ballots 2 weeks prior to election day to speed up election results due to the large # of absentee ballots that are being used during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • An online portal will be created for voters to apply for their absentee ballots.

Attendees:

  • S.O.S: Brad Raffensperger
  • Mr. Warley
  • Ann Lee
  • Mathew Bashler
  • General Council: Ryan German

Link to Agenda: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rBSKxVEQfPSFDD6i07fYOwdcb5fc4-uNBWIFirTljmQ/edit

Public Comment:

  • Louisa Wakeman: I live in Cobb County and wanted to let you know that Friday I went to go vote with my daughter at the East Cobb Gov. Center, when we went to submit our print out of the paper ballot a poll worker briefly glanced at our print out and then put a paper over it  to cover the rest of the ballot and told us which machine to submit our printed ballots to. It was not a secret voting process, I called your office to report it and was told to report it to the county. I asked if yall had any oversight over that and was told that your office only takes complaints from the county BOE. I asked for the name of the person I was speaking with and they hung up on me. What I would like is a follow up within 30 days in writing whether you received a report of complaint from Cobb Co. BOE on the complaint I filed with the Cobb BOE. I would also like to know what is being done to make sure that peoples ballots are safe, secure and secret when we vote in November.
  • Ryan German: Our office does take complaints from the public so please continue to send those in.
  • Vasu Abhearman: I am the policy council at the ACLU of GA. We want the processing of absentee ballots more manageable but we urge this body to go further to encourage the process of in person voting this fall. During the 6-9-20 primary we recognize great implications that well trained poll workers can have on an election. The Avg. age of a poll worker is 72 in GA. Many poll workers drop out just before the election due to the very reasonable reason of health concerns in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, The ACLU of GA, the S.O.S and other groups are hard at work recruiting highly competent workers to serve as poll workers to help counties staff at the unprecedented levels required for the expected record turnout in the general election. GA law currently requires that poll workers be residents of or employed by the Co. in which they serve. Removing this unnecessary restraint will greatly expand the state’s base of poll workers by allowing Georgians to answer the call to serve as poll workers exactly where they are needed instead of needlessly limiting Georgians serving in their counties residence. We strongly urge the S.O.S  and State Election Board to remove the county resident requirement for poll workers and open the door for committed Georgians to serve as poll workers in high need areas across our state, our right to vote depends on it.
  • Joy Watson: I’m a Dekalb Co. voter. You can’t turn on the news today without hearing of the struggles from the U.S. Postal Service and  how delivery delays are affecting really critical things like prescription and drug refills and ballot delivery. Covid-19 has been a very serious concern in GA and the S.O.S appropriately encouraged voters to vote by mail to take pressure off in person voting. Covid will be here in the Fall and we can have as many as 2,5 million absentee ballots. To help ease crowding and make it easier for people to vote under our pandemic conditions and with mail concerns please require that Counties allow absentee drop off at every early voting location. It isn’t difficult and will help voters that do not have a drop box in their county or close to them. Counties simply designate an absentee clerk and have a ballot box for dropping in.  When counties have uneven practices around ballot drop off it causes confusion and can potentially disenfranchise voters. Voters can’t be sure if their Co. will accept the ballot at early voting because some do and some don’t. In Dekalb I was able to drop off my absentee ballot at early voting in June, but unfortunately wasn’t allowed to drop it off at an early voting site last week. What if that had been the only time that I had available to drop off my ballot? So please mandate polling place drop off statewide to better serve voters and election workers, you should consider rules to have a check in line for voters who wish to have their ballots accepted upon presentation of ID. This would assure voters and lessen the burden on staff later with verification of voters and signature matches. Planning for a robust mail in ballot turnout for the election and reducing the dependency on the postal service is a smart move.
  • Liz Troup: I’m a Dekalb Co. voter. The ,ong lines on 6-9-20 must not be repeated in Nov. On that day poll pads wouldn’t boot up, wouldn’t look up voters from drivers licences or would create valid access cards. As a poll watcher I saw too few poll pads for all the voters waiting in line. You should mandate at least 1 poll book for every 1000 registered voters. You can allow voters to drop off absentee ballots at their precincts. The S.O.S. says he’s determined to keep lines under 30 mins. So put a rule in place to ensure this. Your emergency paper ballot rule seemed promising but it was rarely used even when lines stretched for hours. Poll workers must be trained to understand the difference between provisional ballots and emergency ballots. Emergency ballots are for when machines malfunction, for when the wait time exceeds 30 mins.
  • Unlike provisional ballots emergency ballots can be cast right in the precinct scanners and always count. All machines do not have to be down for 30 mins. Before imposing this rule, excessive lines alone should trigger it. While this Board is not responsible for training you can oversee improved training materials. The emergency paper ballot rule ensures that there will be enough capacity even in a high turnout election.
  • Aklima Khondoker: I’m the GA State Director of All Voting Is Local. As y’all consider rule changes today I ask you to also consider critical changes for in person voting. In person voting is a defining feature of our democracy and it must improve for voters in Nov.. Even as the State expands access to absentee voting during the pandemic GA voters are diverse and include people without internet or mail access, people with disabilities and people who require language assistance to vote. Though these voters rely on in person voting to cast their ballot securely, safely and independently. As members of The Board consider election rule changes today, consider issuing  a common sense plan to keep the polling places open, safe and accessible so that every GA voter can make their voices heard. Keep polling places open by encouraging and supporting Co.’s elections offices with increased support in poll worker recruitment, which may include necessary funding to hire workers and working with the Governor to allow existing state workers to take the day off to serve as poll workers on election day. Additionally voters need more access to polling places through adding more early voting sites. Polling places should not be closed or consolidated which should be resourced adequately to ensure that more voters can vote in person. Adequate resources include providing enough voting machines, scanners, ballot paper and poll workers to accommodate all voters on election day. Lack of election day resources causes long lines as we witnessed during the 6-9-20 election. No voter should be forced to wait longer than 30 mins. To vote, keep polling places safe by supporting Co.’s with increased P.P.E., sanitation products and sanitary guidelines. Keep polling places accessible by ensuring that each location is A.D.A. compliant and can accommodate voters of diverse mobility. It is important that polling places remain open, especially in communities composed of people who are often disenfranchised because of their disability, the language they speak or their race. Voters in these communities have been more likely to suffer disenfranchisement even when voting absentee.
  • Aerie Knockamora: I’m a Fulton Co. voter. Every vote is cast is the fundamental mission of conducting elections. Defining the official vote is part of the duties explicitly delegated to the State Elections Board. The new Dominion voting system introduced a new concept. The printed vote summary with both human readable text and a QR code. Many GA voters have been quite frustrated at your failure to explicitly define the official vote while caring a series of rules governing tabulation and recounts that default to the QR code as the only vote counted in most cases which of course is a huge problem yet to be resolved.The first statewide test of the new system exposed an additional problem. On 6-9-20 we discovered that the scanning software is discarding some of the votes that are actually valid votes determined by the people serving on review panels. This is a serious flaw in the system. Under GA law and common sense if an electors mark is clear it shall be counted, but GA now has scanning software that marks some votes as unvoted. The S.O.S office seems to be deferring to the vendor. How crazy is that, we have spoken of industry standards but no such standards exist all to avoid an uncomfortable truth, the scanning software is not doing its job when it marks valid votes as unvoted. The software is flawed. Please demand that the S.O.S. consult independent experts to get to the heart of this problem. In the meantime all of the counties’ votes must be counties. In GA that’s the law and that’s what we voters demand from those in charge of GA elections. Changing the definition of a vote because of faulty software that does not count some votes is simply wrong and undemocratic.
  • George Balboa: For years now the GA S.O.S. has emphatically stated that our voting machines are not connected to wifi, because being connected to the internet provides a monumental attack vector for election manipulation. An online portal by definition is directly connected to the internet. Who is building this online portal? How are they selected? What steps are the S.O.S. and SEB (State Election Board) taking to ensure the security of our online voting? In the past GA S.O.S. hired people to conduct 3 cyber security assessments. They found 57 serious vulnerabilities. They also obtained domain administrative access to the GA SOS system. Simply put they had complete control of the GA’s SOS system. What security measures are being taken to make certain that a foreign or domestic bad actor does not hack GA elections. Multiple independent cyber security specialists should conduct comprehensive risk assessments before the SOS voting portal is allowed to go online.
  • Margaret Arnette: I’m a Dekalb Co. voter. I would suggest that the SEB make a rule change to section 10. The latest version of the absentee request form which would give each voter who fills out an absentee ballot request form the option to request to have all their absentee ballots automatically sent to them for that election cycle. More and more voters are enjoying the convenience and security of absentee ballot voting. County offices are overwhelmed during early voting every election with the absentee ballot request forms from GA voters who are not of advanced age, disabled or are military voters. This is needless excessive work and man hours for our county elections office to have to keep processing applications that only have the new election date changed at the top, all when voters who simply prefer to vote absentee could just fill out 1 application per election cycle instead of the 8 or 10 requests forms required for all  of the elections that could happen during the election cycle because of primaries, run offs, etc.. The SEB consistently works to make it easier for Georgians to vote and easier for county election officials to do their jobs, this seems like a great way to be doing both. I ask that the SEB please authorize the change to section 10 of the absentee ballot request form to allow all voters the option to receive all ballots during the election cycle immediately.
  • Rhonda Martin: I am on the Board of Coalition For Good Governance, At your meeting from 7-1-20 I spoke about the trial risk limiting audit that you conducted in Fulton Co. on 6-29-20. I would like to augment my comments today. First of all you did not conduct a trial of risk limited audit on 6-29. You conducted a pilot of a couple of the steps involved in conducting a risk limited audit, but your audit did not follow established procedures agreed upon by national voting integrity experts. The consensus document on this topic is titled principles and best practices for post election tabulation audits, and can be found on Verified Votings website. One of the principles is that the audit treats as authoritative only marks on the paper that the voter can verify. Your audit relied on duplicated ballots which voters had no opportunity to verify and on BMD print outs which are a largely unverified product of the elections system. Another product states that the public is provided with all necessary info to replicate all decisions and calculations made in support of the audit. The tabulating votes subtotals by audit unit and overall totals are published or committed before the random selection of audit units. The election results used for the audit on 6-29 did not match official results for Fulton Co. found on the SOS’s website making it difficult for observers to even know the vote tally for the election or have a sense of what underlying results are being used for these audit procedures. These are just a couple of examples where serious problems must be addressed before the meaningful risk limiting audits can even be attempted in the state of GA. I recommend that before finalizing any rules of post election audits you study the principles document endorsed by true experts in the field such as the American Statistical Association. RLA’s are not easy, it took Colorado 7 years to prepare for their first RLA 2 years ago. They still have a long way to go to make meaningful RLA’s common practice.
  • Jean Newford: I’m a Morgan Co. voter and a member of The Coalition For Good Governance.I served in a number of capacities on 6-9 and during the following 10 days. Officially as a poll watcher, vote review panelist and informally assisting in opening and sorting mailed ballots. Like voters in most counties about ½ of Morgan Co. voters chose to vote from home. Submitting hand marked absentee ballots that have to be checked in, opened and scanned in a central office. We used the adjudication software to resolve questions with ballots. About 5% of the ballots required review. In consultation with Dominion Staff we looked at ballots with over votes or ambiguous marks. To my knowledge most counties in the state used this election criteria. Overall the adjudication tool was easy to navigate and helpful in selecting ballots to review, but I was shocked to find that the scanning software has a serious flaw. It marks some votes as uncounted that a 3 person review panel unanimously agreed were clearly votes. First time we encountered this the dominion tech assured us that the vote was counted, it was that clear. Next time we asked to see the cast vote record we were really shocked to see that vote labeled unvoted. 212438C is clear notwithstanding any other provisions in this Chapter the entire election code to the contrary if the electors mark is clear it shall be counted its unambiguous must support the goals of the business it is used for. It is absurd to change the goal based on technological limitations. Scanners and scanning software are used in elections to expedite tabulation, they must not be used to throw away otherwise valid votes. GA voters want to be assured that all of our votes will be counted and that’s your job to ensure it.
  • Aliysa Goldklein: I am here to ask that the State mandate elections offices to allow ballots to be dropped off at any time before the election and on election day and provide plenty of ballot boxes for voters because clearly the virus has killed over 170,000 people so far. I lost my Mother, I lost my Mother in law this year. Our health is first and that’s the most important and also what’s complicated and making business more difficult for Georgians is this hold on the mail. In my opinion it’s immoral, it impedes our business here, it impedes our personal business and it also is unpatriotic. It’s traidorist to hold the mail because it will help you win elections. I am appalled, but there is nothing I can do about it now. I think that we need to remember that our own proud postal workers have always delivered our mail on time and they never have been held back because of political reasons before, specifically to prevent us from voting. We are not going to let that happen in GA. We are going to make sure that everyone can drop off an absentee ballot whenever they can and that they can put it in a ballot box. I want to remind everybody what the postal service is. Neither snow, rain, heat nor gloom of night stop these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed routes. For the first time in their history a very selfish, egotistical, narcissistic person has decided to slow those rounds because he thinks it’s going to help him. Well we are just going to make sure that our votes count and we’re not going to be swayed by this man.
  • Jerry Gonzalez: I’m the executive director of the Georgia Association Of Latino Elected Officials. I would like to implore the board in the changes that are being proposed with regards to the portal that’s being developed for absentee ballot requests. There is no mention in their regarding access for folks that are particularly in Gwinnett Co. and Puerto Ricans across the state to ensure that they have the federally mandated language access protections associated with them being able to to seek absentee ballots. The SOS office failed to do that during the most recent mailing and we want to make sure that steps are taken in compliance with federal law section 203 of the voting rights act for Gwinnett Co. voters as well as section 4E of the voting rights act for Puerto Ricans all across the state that do need spanish language access for an absentee ballot request. I want to make sure that the board is aware of that and the board takes action on that and ask what the board is going to be doing about that.
  • Dennis Hart: I am Vice Chair of Elections for Lowndes County Democratic Committee, I very much appreciate that in paragraph 6 of the draft amendment county elections superintendent may make reasonable regulations involving social distance measures and PPE that designated monitors shall follow. I appreciate that the superintendent may require monitors and observers to wear masks, we would welcome such a requirement. In fact all monitors and adjudicators wore masks at all times in the elections office during the primary in June. However the elections office staff for the most part did not wear masks during the absentee ballot processing. They did wear masks when interacting with the public but did not wear masks when talking with monitors and adjudicators. Monitors and adjudicators are members of the public. We would appreciate it if the SEB, the SOS and the county elections superintendents make clear that the election staff shall not just should but shall wear masks when interacting with the public including monitors and adjudicators.
  • Lori Schellenberg: I am an advisor with the Brennan Center For Justice. The Brenen center is a nonpartisan law and policy institute affiliated with NY School of Law that seeks to improve our systems of democracy and Justice. I’m calling in to comment on proposed emergency rule 183-1-14-1.0-.16 regarding the absentee ballot portal. We commend the SOS for making the ballot application available online. We do however have 1 suggestion regarding subsection 2 of the proposed rule. The language related to the signature comparison for paper ballot applications we respectfully  request the addition of language confirming the prohibition on rejection of ballot applications due to a perceived signature mismatch to ensure consistency and compliance with GA annotated code section 21-2-381B3 which prohibits the rejection of a ballot application on the grounds of a signature mismatch. We urge you to add language that reiterates the prohibition and compliance with the process for mailing provisional ballots to such voters as outlined in section B3 of the statute. 
  • Election workers will now be able to start processing absentee ballots 2 weeks prior to election day to speed up election results due to the large # of absentee ballots that are being used during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • An online portal will be created for voters to apply for their absentee ballots.

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These meetings are open to the public by Georgia law. Georgia Open Meetings Act.

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