After voters alerted the NAACP of irregularities with voting machines across Georgia, including vote-switching and touch screen malfunctions, the organization has filed complaints with the State Board of Elections for possible voter suppression tactics.
NAACP Georgia State Conference president Phyllis T. Blake filed complaints with Georgia’s State Board Of Elections after early voters and eyewitnesses in Bartow, Cobb, Henry, and Dodge County, Ga., notified the civil rights organization of the defective machines.
“We’ve seen issues across the state of Georgia, and not just the Atlanta Metroplex,” Khyla D. Craine, the NAACP’s assistant general counsel told The Root. “We’ve seen this in central Georgia and have seen issues in southeastern Georgia, near Savannah.”
In some cases, eyewitnesses report that when they attempted to vote for gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, the machines switched their vote to the Republican nominee for governor, Brian Kemp, who is also Georgia’s chief election officer in his current capacity as Secretary of State. Other voters have reported incidences of machines spitting their ballot card out when they inserted it into the electronic voting machines.
“It’s not something that’s new, unfortunately,” explained Craine. “These machines are old but it’s incumbent upon the people running the election to ensure that machines are fully functional.”
Georgia’s elections issues are not limited to voting machines. Craine said that many Georgia voters who have requested or cast absentee ballots have been unable to track them using the Secretary of State’s “My Voter” page.
When a potential voter requests an absentee ballot, the voter is supposed to be able to enter their information on the Secretary of State’s website and see the status of their vote. Craine notes one specific incident in Candler County, Ga., where the county election official wasn’t even aware that they were supposed to input the information into the system.
So what is going on in Georgia?
Atlanta Magazine notes that Georgia uses 17-year-old voting machines running obsolete software and is one of five U.S. states whose voting machines have no paper trail, making them the most vulnerable to hacking, according to cybersecurity experts.
Three months before the 2016 election, a security researcher named Logan Lamb discovered a vulnerability in the lone server housing all the software poll books and passwords that allowed him to download and—if he wanted to—change the software for every voting machine in Georgia. But when the Coalition for Good Governance asked to see if the server holding Georgia’s voting data and software had been compromised, the server was wiped clean.
Yet, Politico reports that Brian Kemp was the only chief election official in the entire country to refuse security assistance from the Department of Homeland Security prior to the 2016 election.
Robert DeMillo, Distinguished Professor of Computing at Georgia Tech University, former Chief Technology Officer at Hewlett Packard, and one of the most respected elections systems experts in the world told The Root in August that unauditable systems such as Georgia’s pose a “very real threat” to voting security. He explained to The Root that an auditable paper trail was necessary because if the server, vote talliers or voting machine software were ever compromised, the only way to detect it would be to compare the data with actual paper ballots.
In April, Alex Halderman, another one of the country’s best voting machine cybersecurity experts gathered the press for a demonstration. Halderman wrote a program on a memory card, inserted it into a voting machine and voted four times—twice for George Washington and Twice for Benedict Arnold. The machine accepted the votes as it normally would. But when the machine counted the votes, it counted three votes for Benedict Arnold. Halderman hacked the imaginary election, but it was just a demonstration ...
In Georgia ...
On the exact same voting machines that the NAACP has received complaints about.
The NAACP and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law have been training partners across Georgia for the past several months and working with constituents, election officials and poll workers to ensure that every voter’s ballot is counted.
“We are demanding that the Secretary of State ensure that machines are fully functional,” said Craine.
Craine suggests that voters that voters remain diligent and aware of this problem. She suggests that voters take these precautionary measures:
- Be sure that the machine accepts your card and that it is inserted correctly.
- Make sure that the touchscreen records the candidate for which you voted.
- Carefully review all of your choices on the final confirmation screen before you finalize your vote.
- If the voting machine malfunctions, ask for another machine and make sure the poll workers take that machine offline.
- If you have any trouble call 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) to notify the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition.
And while this may sou like wild speculation, DeMillo notes that: “The reason for the wild speculations is because the people responsible for finding out if election tampering is going on aren’t interested in doing so.”
“What we don’t want to have is hysteria,” Craine warned. “Because that undermines the faith in the fundamentals of the system and will scare people away from voting at all.”
And that, my friend, is how voter suppression works.