GA House of Representatives Governmental Affairs Meeting to Discuss 2020 Elections 12/23/20

Georgia House of Representatives Governmental Affairs Meeting

You can view the entire meeting here: https://livestream.com/accounts/25225474/events/9117221/videos/215253349

Overview:

  • Ryan Germany investigation update:
    • Discusses the amount of misinformation coming from media outlets – they are now having to issue retractions
    • 5752 voters were identified with signature match issues
      • This is 4.3% of all votes cast
      • Higher than previous years but consistent with the increase in absentee ballots seen this year
      • Final rejection rate was much lower due to the curing process
    • Complaint about Cobb not doing proper signature match against ballot requests
      • We are investigating but it looks like they were correct in their process
    • We are investigating 74 claims
      • Trump alleges 66k underaged age voters; total number is 0 –  4 voters requested ballots before they turned 18 and all turned 18 by election day.
      • Trump alleges 15k non residents voted; this is not true
    • We are investigating people handing out things in return for voting
      • Polling places should be an “oasis” for voters
  • Rep Gravely: Asks for Mr. Germany to provide committee with a simplified summary of his update
  • Rep Alan Powell: I voted against expanding absentee voting because I foresaw it opening us up to fraud.
  • Rep Alan Powell: Asks about private money being given to local election boards
    • Germany does not oppose restricting counties from receiving 3rd party grants
  • Rep MaryMargret Oliver: What was the purpose of Trump’s Chief of Staff Meadows’ visit? How long did you know he was coming?
    • Germany: SOS Office was notified when Secret Service showed up moments before Mr. Meadows’ arrival. I am not sure what the purpose of his visit was. He was only given access to the doorway of the room, the same view that anyone walking by might have.
  • Rep MaryMargret Oliver: Can you give us the demographic breakdown of the 5000 rejected  ballots? Was the voter contacted?
    • Germany: 5752 includes all ballots that had issues – 2700 were cured by verifying with the voter. 3000 votes were rejected.
      • Of the 1.3M absentee ballots, these 3000 “may be taking up a disproportionate amount of our time”
  • Rep Alan Powell: Asks about the voting buses in Fulton: Don’t the machines have to be stationary? So much fiction, “doesn’t know what’s true”
  • Rep Barry Fleming: Questions about voting machines
  • Rep Bee Nguyen – With no evidence; why would SOS try to eliminate the no excuse absentee voting?
    • Germany: I think everyone agrees on both sides there is “fraud” – but it’s not fraud, it’s misinformation and still an illegal vote. For absentee voting, it occurs outside of the voting realm and it’s harder to provide confidence in the process. A lot of states have an excuse based system. But GA has 3 weeks of early voting, the way our laws and elections offices are set up, its not set up to have a massive absentee by mail system.
  • Rep Bee Nguyen – The inability to clean up voter rolls because SOS removed 300k off voter rolls – and that 22k were wrongly removed and had to be reinstated by SOS. Based on this and SOS willingness to create a Task Force, what steps will SOS take to ensure they do not disenfranchise GA voters?
    • Germany: 2019 ppl removed had been identified in 2015. We took the additional steps passing law requiring a final notice to inactive voters before removal then finally removed. Federal Laws do not reflect our mobile society “we are certainly not removing too many people from the rolls” 
  • Rep Bee Nguyen – have you seen increased fraud?
    • Mobile voting – We don’t think so
    • Drop boxes – We have not substantiated any fraud claims 
  • Rep J Collins – deceased voters? How often does SOS inform counties?
    • Germany: We get Bureau of Vital Statistics info, match with voter rolls and then share with counties to update their rolls + ERIC (?) to catch people not covered by bureau
      • Restrictions on removals do not apply to dead people and felons, that is updated monthly
  • Rep Todd Jones – Data scrubbing – we see the challenge around the NCOA; over 15k Georgians that submitted NCOA to out of state addresses but still voted in GA. What is the NCOA process?
    • Germany: 15k is not an accurate starting point, SOS has access to additional info that whittles down that number. For Nov, regarding ppl potentially not GA voters, looking at NCOA (but it does not have private info) also does not consider overseas ppl, considers who voted in person vs by mail (less likely to come back just to vote), and considers college kids and other temporary, also considers vacation home addresses.
      • We have been able to track voters that have mortgages, school enrollments in other states…
  • Rep Todd Jones – Is NCOA hit probable cause to trigger move to inactive status? 
    • Germany – That triggers a confirmation card that triggers further action
  • Rep Todd Jones – We looked at voter rolls in April 2019, on avg we were seeing 4k ppl move to inactive. After April, we saw moves drop to ~200 ppl. What triggered that?
    • Germany: We run NCOA in odd number years so you wouldn’t have seen 
      • But we saw consistent moves in ‘16 and ‘18… will submit in writing and discuss further later 
  • Rep Todd Jones – Do we have ability to do forensic audit contractually?
    • Germany: Yes and we have. 
  • Rep Todd Jones – Election data stored in GA or out of state?
    • Germany: Stored in counties
  • Rep Todd Jones – Mobile voting – based on Fulton website
    • Germany: Mobile voting locations were not at polling precincts – presented 
    • Germany: Early voting can take place at polling place or gov
  • Rep Todd Jones – There is not a consistency – can SOS provide guidance across GA
    • Germany: Election challenges in GA have to present probable cause about a specific voter – challenger has burden of proof to prove their challenge
  • Rep Todd Jones Can you get us the mobile voting statute that supports mobile voting?
    • Germany: Is it illegal? There is nothing in law that prohibits
      • So there is an absence of legislation? 
        • Yes
  • Rep Scot Turner 8k or so notifications were sent to ppl potentially not eligible to vote Jan 5?
    • Germany – Reminder was sent 
      • How did you arrive at selecting those individuals to be notified?
        • Ppl who have requested absentee for Jan 5 vs ppl who have filed out of state NCOA
  • Rep Scot Turner – Can you describe details about complaints that lead you to investigate Cobb Co?
    • Germany: Got complaint of from someone who worked in Cobb – problem was that later in the day, our supervisor told us to just process applications that had been set aside for signature nonmatch (Nov 23)
      • Are you aware members of this committee sent letter to SOS encouraging signature audit on Nov 28?
        • No
      • Never received response in writing – got a verbal reply that we weren’t able to do signature audit. So what changed?
        • I think the amount of requests allowed that to happen to increase ppls confidence in the process
  • Rep Scot Turner –  Coffee County – adjudication process – would that person go to jail?
    • Germany: Because we have paper ballots, the software would indicate discrepancies
  • Rep Scot Turner –  Co chain of custody paperwork will not be provided until January?
    • Germany: Onslaught of open records requests; processing in order they were received
  • Rep Renitta Shannon – complaints about voter fraud and voter suppression being the same thing is offensive for those who have been systematically disenfranchised
  • Rep Renitta Shannon – SOS mentioned he believes that not having a stated reason leads to fraud. What support do you have?
    • Germany: We want an election system that everyone has confidence in. Absentee voting is harder – doesn’t mean there is widespread fraud – look at what provides confidence. We are a state that has very close elections.
      • But what does providing an excuse do to decrease fraud?
        • Fraud is not the best word. I think “illegal vote” is better. It may not be intentional but it’s still not allowed. 
  • Rep Renitta Shannon – Voter confidence – there is no proof of hacking – but we know that Dominion is vulnerable. We are having these meetings because some ppls candidates didn’t win. Has there been any talk or support reconsidering going back to paper ballot? 
    • SOS Raffensperger – if we go to hand marked, they will still be run through the same scanners
      • But you can audit voter intent
    • Germany  – they increase problems, not decrease them. The less subjectivity, the more confidence. No, we do not think we should go back to paper.
  • Rep Renitta Shannon – From SOS office, you mentioned 501c3 groups and their involvement – this works to decrease voter confidence. Do you recognize that SOS messaging on fraud has led to death threats? You can’t continue with this theme of fraud and then run to the media about death threats. 
    • Germany – “very rare but not non-existent; it is certainly not wide-spread.” The point Sterling was trying to make is that there is no such thing as a perfect election
      • You’re making my point that its not widespread fraud but continuing to say“illegal votes happen every day” Seems partisan to me and coming from office paid for by tax payers
    • Sterling – illegal votes happen, widespread fraud has not; we can hold both of these things
      • “Everyday” makes ppl think that election is fraught with 
  • Rep Scot Turner – how many hand marked ballots?
    • Germany: 1.3M hand marked paper ballots
      • How many times did we have a hard time determining voter intent?
        • Would have to ask counties but we would have to ask county boards
  • Rep David Knight – asks for updates on specific investigations; Spalding Co on Nov 3 was in the national media 
    • Germany – Our investigators along with GBI are in Spalding; on election day there was poll pad issue (Spalding and Morgan Co). there is a backup on election day – Morgan co was able to do that back up; Spalding Co was not, required SOS assistance.
      • Also saw ppl getting things out of dumpsters but confirmed nothing was credible
      • Spalding Co issues are not new; reviewing paperwork violations 
  • Rep David Knight – Training and audits from GBI — all audits are not created equal; request the scope and procedures of the specific audit
  • Rep David Knight – Training issues about location elections supervisors – would like to see trainings and who completed them
    • Would like to see chain of custody procedures be reviewed
  • Rep David Knight – Would like to see copy of the contracts and vendors
  • Rep David Knight – Voter certificates – what is the effect of that certificate not being signed? (OCGA 212.4.31 and 32)
    • This happens electronically via poll pad in person and via paper with absentee
      • Information popping up from the constituents that those were not completed
  • Rep Rhonda Burnough – What is the solution if we force ppl to come out and stand in line? We’ve already had bad press on long lines. 
    • If gen assembly decides to move back to excuse voting, 
    • We proposed If here is a line of more than an hour, then you have to provide
    • Also seen better line tracking to see where those issues that need to be addressed
    • National standard is less than 30 mins
  • Rep Rhonda Burnough – If we were going to order more equipment, would that be on the county or state?
    • Germany: On county. There may need to be some additional precincts and issues regarding allocation
  • Rep Eddie Lumsden – voting irregularities; you have an investigative division. What is there training? How are they different from GBI? 
    • Germany: All are post certified officers of GA; have 22 investigators
      • Grateful to governor for allowing GBI to assist us
      • We provide results to the state election board and the board makes determination on how to proceed – AGs office or fines or refer to DA offices for prosecution. That determination [to prosecute] is made by district DA then we provide support for investigation.
  • Rep Joseph Gullett – constituents have lost faith in elections, state has lost credibility
    • Dec 10 we had ppl testify about poll watching/poll managers complaints
    • Today you guys offer different picture that nothing about investigations change elections – I’m having trouble reconciling the 2 views
    • Paulding Co is one of the best but another county can negate that 
    • What happens if BOE doesn’t approve/follow process. Does state have way to confirm counties are following law 
      • Germany: Law says SHALL remove, so its not optional. We can see their action via dashboard. We have not seen anyone just NOT do it. We follow laws that we don’t agree with all the time
    • Open Records request – I don’t think 60 days is following the law despite being inundated. Think you may need to bring in additional resources to knock that out
      • Appreciate any allocations of resources
  • Chairwoman Darlene Taylor – Asks why SOS sent absentee ballot requests applications; what is the cost? Why do we continue to do this?
    • Germany: sent for Primary only; during crux of COVID and counties were having hard time finding locations; also had lots of lawsuits asking to be ordered to send BALLOTS so we sent applications to protect GA’s double signature verification process. If you send ballot, you lose a step of verification.
      • We did not send any application in the general; a lot of 3rd parties did – is problematic because they’re not exercising a lot of responsibility in making sure ppl are actually eligible to vote. 3rd parties try to track voters down no matter where they are.
      • Introduced absentee ballot portal that ppl prefer; requires DL # ppl feel this is more secure than signature
  • Chairwoman Darlene Taylor – Can ballots be scanned before election day?
    • Germany: SEB allowed  up to 2 weeks early scanning but not tabulating absentee ballots in general
      • GA counted ballots significantly faster than most other states
      • For Jan, SEB passed emergency regulation REQUIRING scanning during last week
  • Chairwoman Darlene Taylor – “Perception becomes reality.” Need to have more control over local security – know that the people are watching – half of this state is not happy
  • Rep Bruce Williamson: SOS Raffensperger, my constituents are upset about not being able to get anyone on the phone at the SOS office. Fulton Co has never seemed to get their elections right for past 20 yrs, with no lack of resources – complete mishandling of primary and Nov 3. Is it true there was only 1 SOS observer? Was he also responsible for another precinct a mile away?
    • SOS Raffensperger: 26 yrs problem with Fulton – we need the authority to fire election directors and replace the board – don’t need ability to hire
      • SEB observer with additional power was present at Fulton due to consent decree put in place after June 9 meltdown
        • What’s changing in January to give assurances for a more efficient election this time?
  • Rep Mary Francis Williams – constituents worried about their votes being counted – concerned with how long it takes to vote and vote being county. You’ve talked about getting rid of no-excuse and requiring DL – how are you going to make it possible for people who don’t need or have DL to vote? What about elderly and disabled voters? 
    • Germany: Fact is, vast majority of voters do fall in this category. Still have to have considerations for this group — federal law requires the same thing.
      • It’s had to get to Cobb Elections from a nursing home – would be a big hurdle for a lot of ppl
  • Rep Shaw Blackmon – can you speak to ppl going to vote and being told they already voted?
    • Germany: What we found in the General – 100-150 complaints of that happening – they were told they had requested an absentee ballot and they said no, I haven’t – most of those were ppl who were on the rollover list – only had to request once.
      • Ppl showing up to vote and being told they had already voted absentee – poll worker should actually say they already requested their absentee ballot
      • Did see some were entered incorrectly — happened very very infrequently
        • Did you see anyone vote for someone else?
          • No.
  • Rep Shaw Blackmon – Did you see counties were not caught up on their absentee ballot processing by election morning (since they were able to process early)?
    • Sterling – Nearly all were caught up, Fulton did have a small backlog but most were 
  • Rep Shaw Blackmon – Regarding registrations: Are you going to be able to differentiate who is able to vote in state vs fed elections in Jan race? 
    • Fed law defines run off as a new election for Fed elections so we had to put in place a  new registration deadline; when having 2 elections, we had to make the voter reg deadline the same for state races as well to comply with Federal law
  • Rep Shaw Blackmon -Consent decree – what was Gwinnett sued for before that agreement?
    • Over signature matches; parties were DPG, DSCC
  • Rep Shaw Blackmon -Absentee by mail applications that went out – particular law that Sec used to do that?
    • No.
      • “It was a noble goal but we’re a nation of laws not goals”
  • Rep Scot Turner – constituents thought they HAD to vote or it wouldn’t print my ballot (prompted to fill in missing races) (believe software needs to be adjusted to deal with that issue)
  • Rep Scot Turner – Is it the opinion of SOS that NCOA is probable cause?
    • What actually happens with card is what triggers action – probable cause is introduced in a challenge; determination is made by county elections board and burden is on challenger
      • Is there anything in law that require county elections board to check? 
        • No, determination is made by County BOE
  • Rep Gullett: SOS Raffensperger, if election was only in Fulton county, would you have certified this election?
    • SOS Raffensperger: That’s conjecture and we deal with what we have and we have 159 counties.
    • Germany: Fulton Co board certified their results even though some board members dissented. Everything didn’t happen perfectly but it doesn’t mean we don’t certify, its never happened before and not happening now.
  • Rep Alan Powell: It’s clear we have two Georgia’s: we have rural GA and metro GA. We know local BOEs function differently; do we think it would be proper to have very specific protocol about how BOEs function to do away with perception of any wrongdoing?
    • SOS Raffensperger: To be on county BOE is an incredible responsibility. Boards take their responsibilities very seriously and work very hard. Point is, on election night, ppl are visiting locations…
      • We would need to have more oversight into the local elections boards so that we don’t have the types of complaints we had last meeting
    • Statewide audit 
      • Starting in Cobb, full audit will take some months 

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