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State Board of Elections Meeting 8/27/2020

  • Call to oder- 9:01am

Members present:

  • Raffensberger
  • Mashburn
  • Worley
  • Sullivan

Not present:

  • Le

Public Comment:

  • Jacqueline Elsner – observer for opening of absentee ballots in Athens; there for voter review panel as well; many voter marks not picked up by Dominion scanners; GA Constitution doesn’t talk about a scanner setting being the acceptance level, it talks about marks. SEB should change ruling to be any marks; judge told ACC members they couldn’t go back and look at the votes; asks for reduced percentage
  • Ms. Helen –  need solutions for absentee balloting so people don’t have to wait in line. Issues: absentee applications should be issued immediately and not held for indiscriminate dates for processing; must have quicker delivery time (under 16 days we had); applications via email must have system that will capture and process in a timely fashion; need staff to accept and process applications
  • Jean Dufort – Complains that this hearing about Fulton is eroding confidence and politicizing the SEB as it is moving “political theatre” over ongoing questions and complaints; Fulton needs to do better but punishment is not the path to get there 
  • George Balbona – Was removed from Marietta polling place by 4 police while watching election close down; got apology from police but SEB is “remiss in their duties” for not training law enforcement on election code; in 2017 multiple folx were evicted from polling places even with legal support. Poll workers and police need training 
  • Shannon Everley – MVP page does not say you can email your absentee ballot request. Spent 2 hours figuring out that she could. The MVP page needs an update to show this and facilitate the process. Does not say electronic signature is insufficient and that you have to print and sign; But should also be able to do electronic signature 
  • Eileen Nakamura – Offended by SOS implying Fulton is the only county that had issues; SOS didn’t tell counties the plan and offer support; having external vendor is against SEB rules; attack on Fulton is personal from SOS
  • Garland Favorito – “bizzare results” in unverifiable voters in Gwinnett county on judge race
  • Aunna Dennis – Counties had little time to prepare and few resources for processing absentee ballots; county staff worked diligently but there were wrong emails and contact listed; all counties need to focus on these concerns
  • Nan Gartenberg –  We need to redesign the MVP.SOS.GA.GOV website. There are different non partisan companies that could be contacted to help redesign the MVP page. Fulton counties website works better than the MVP website. 
  • Katrina Dinkle: The OSCE is an international election monitoring organization which the U.S. is a part of. The Russian Federation of Elections is also a part of this organization which gives them the ability to monitor our elections in some states. I ask that the SOS reject any request by this organization to meet with GA election officials or to observe here in GA.
  • Mark Ronson – Senior citizen who didn’t get his ballot was deprived of his right to vote for the 6-9-20 election – he’s already sent for Nov. 3; concerns about process to check on progress of ballot 
  • Sally Faqoor Sikaiha – Has been out of town since Feb. due to Covid and although she ordered her ballot it was not processed until early June and was sent to her home in Roswell on 6-6-20 even though she requested it to be sent to Connecticut. Because of this she was deprived of her right to vote.
  • Priscilla Smith – Backs up Balboa’s issue and that he was doing things correctly; Cobb Commission didn’t make plans to address this issue or spend CARES money correctly. There were irregularities during the election, areas in south cobb with higher minority populations had to wait in line for 5 hours to vote while the areas with less minorities in north cobb had no trouble whatsoever. 
  • Patty Nathan – USPS delays mean you need to mail voters their absentee ballots directly following Labor Day. Mailing it later than that will be or at least will appear to be an act of voter suppression.
  • Liz Troop – Email servers were overloaded due to file size when voters were emailing their absentee ballot applications; too much traffic will slow them down and that should be considered in Fulton’s issues 
  • Elizabeth Howes -The SOS has spoken out frequently against absentee ballots. He knows very well that absentee voting is a very secure way for citizens to vote. This is absentee voting intimidation. What will the SEB do to ensure that this will not happen in the future?

Incident Report:

  • Frances Watson – 250 complaints from Fulton residents that they didn’t receive their absentee ballots. Results showed these were not processed. 
  • Chris Harvey – Adding context – Starts by reading email from Early County re: covid concerns during 6-9-20 election and following changes, only 5 committed poll workers Due to Covid-19 and cleanliness concerns. 
  • Also talks about deaths in county offices re: covid. Speaks to all the changes that happened this year (ie new systems and training). Integration and training for machines started in late 2019. June is the most complicated ballot of the year so delays made it have to be the first election on these machines. 
  • Also due to Covid we had so many more voters using absentee. Contracted out for processing to remove pressure from counties. Reports most counties were happy to have this support as they were not ready for the amount of requests. 
  • Saw influx from Fulton voters who didn’t have their ballots for weeks. Spoke with county leadership to let them know. Fulton had issues with servers, staff and printing. Harvey insisted on processing quickly. Fulton also reported initially they had plenty of poll workers. Slowly started losing workers and polling places. Fulton decided to wait to process email requests which Harvey argued against. Fulton didn’t process until Memorial Day. Also hadn’t entered to MVP so voters didn’t see the update. Snowballed with extra requests, calls. Also called cancellation issues on Election Day (future investigation on this). Day after elections he talked through improvements with Fulton and is “standing by”
  • Watson – emails of ballots went to 20 staff – which complicated server space due to file size. Then they had the inability to print certain file types. Emails were deleted for space – were not kept as required. 
  • Voters who went in person met untrained poll workers and lack of answers at Fulton Co. voting locations on Election Day. 
  • 254 complaints sent from voters to our Fulton Co. office that they had not received their June or August absentee ballot. We sent questionnaires to each voter that submitted a complaint. Half had requested their ballot via email, half had requested their ballot via mail. Many also had it sent to the wrong place. Calls were never returned. 
  •  Most requests were made in early April with follow up in May. 
  • Of 254 people that reported they had not received an absentee ballot – 105 of the absentee ballot applications were not entered at all, 107 did not end up voting. These are just the voters that happened to reach out to us
  • Fulton violates OCGA 21-2-384-(2)
  • Recommend case to attorney general 
  • Gabe Sterling – what is the state doing? 
  • Sending 565,000 “roll over ballots” on the week of Sept 14. 100,000 have already been entered. They’ll mail all in e-net system. Except Gwinnett as they make “irregularly large” envelope which makes big processing “virtually impossible” outwardly blames DPG 
  • Processing issues – built portal, soon to launch. Must have license it seems. To cut down on entry and loss issues from paper requests. To cut down on errors and provide transparency. 
  • Election Day – election analysis on where they may have issues based on location, staff, machines. Paper is what is causing the issue – scanners slow the process down and places with too many voters won’t be able to make it through the scanners. 
  • 142 counties have sent info on equipment deployment. Hope to have an analysis by next week. Fulton is doing a “good job so far” on moving around voters and adding polling places 164 for June and 174 for August. 
  • Poll workers – push for adding more since June 9 and have 8500 names. May be techs or workers. Equipment issues were mostly poll workers problems due to lack of training. Also sending line management tool to track line waiting times. Using IBM tool to answer basic questions from the call center. 
  • Expect 2-2.5 million in person voters to vote on 11-3-20. Pushing early voting and resource management. 

SEB Questions:

  • Out of the 254 complaints there was a 50/50 split on emailed absentee ballot requests and mailed absentee ballot requests 
  • Fulton was “approximately 75-80% of complaints” and “10-11%” of all voters
  • Fulton Attorney Amanda Clark Palmer- Asks that issues be considered in the context of covid issues. Little guidance on safety (from medical community). And also postponements and new machines. 
  • 140-fold increase in absentee requests in Fulton Co. 400% increase in absentee turnout in state. Many metros counties had issues. 
  • Fulton office had to be closed down and sanitized after illness in the office. Reiterates some of the server issues Harvey talked about. Disagree – materials SOS sent had incorrect email address and not what was on Fulton’s site. Have now changed to that email to not confuse voters. 
  • No standard format for returned ballots (PDF, JPG, etc) and many could not be printed in office. 
  • Also disagree email was processed last. This was done at the same time as physical mail.  Received 28K email and 160K mail applications.   250 complaints is an error rate of .17%. Not excusing mistakes but did the best they could in the environment. 
  • No punitive sanctions should be warranted, including Attorney General. Issues were not intentional or man-made. 
  • Karen Strickland (Fulton Registration Supervisor) – 10x more requests than what she’s seen in 22 years. Office closed 2 weeks and had 18 trays of mail to process. Email and fax started coming in heavily as well. IT had to help with printing issues. System crashed for “several weeks” due to the volume. Work from home and illness in the staff complicated all of this. Office again shut down 4 days after the staff death. No one was intentionally made unable to vote. 

Questions from SEB:

  • Fulton said they don’t have the number of ballots not processed. Names from complaints were not shared. Have already identified some that were processed from the list SOS shared. They believe they processed all applications but not in a timely manner, they agree. 
  • Were barcodes used to process? Barcode didn’t speed up the process. Was used but didn’t help speed. 
  • Lawyer lifts up that most of these issues have been addressed by Fulton.
  • Barron: Office shutdown put them in a hole “right off the bat” that others didn’t face. Reiterates email issues and how a portal will help with tracking and processing. Again reiterates printing, server and file type issues.  
  • Raffy: Says he got “at least 4 calls” from Fulton voters that didn’t get ballots ahead of August. “How do you explain that if you have fixed the problem?”   Barron asks for details (to come after call). 
  • SOS – still believe this is a violation of election law. Fulton needs names to be sure this info is accurate.  Fulton doesn’t deny some applications weren’t processed but don’t know about that number. 
  • SEB asks about removal of emails – Fulton ensures there’s a record kept by one staff email, and they were just removed from additional email accounts. There is a record of all emails. 
  • SOS office – many counties had the email issue and didn’t snowball; asks for hard drive with all emailed absentee ballot requests.
  • Case is SEB202-016
  • Everyone votes in favor. 
  • Adjourn at 11:22

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