Last week marked the culmination of a couple of years of intense scrutiny of the way we vote in Georgia. The upshot wasn’t nearly as intense as the election which touched it off.

After the 2020 presidential election and the two U.S. Senate runoffs which followed, with former President Donald Trump’s charges of election fraud fresh in legislators’ ears, the General Assembly passed the Election Integrity Act of 2021. One of its most significant provisions established a framework for the State Election Board to take over a county’s election if it found the county hadn’t been enforcing voting laws and rules.

Following a request by Republican legislators in the county, a review board was appointed to investigate Fulton County. Gov. Brian Kemp, a longtime critic of the way elections are run in the state’s largest and most Democratic county, applauded the move, saying Fulton had a “long history of mismanagement, incompetence, and a lack of transparency when it comes to running elections.”

Last week the State Election Board voted unanimously to end its two-year probe without taking over the county’s elections. The three-member review board actually made its recommendation back in January, but the vote last week officially closed the lid on this legislative innovation. The board also dismissed several of the fraud charges brought against county election workers by Trump supporters, including Rudy Giuliani.

That has implications in the several lawsuits brought by former election workers Ruby Freeman and Andrea “Shaye” Moss. The mother-daughter poll workers have already settled a defamation case with One America Network, but they are working through a long list of legal action.

Republicans claimed at the end of this long process that it prompted Fulton County to make long overdue improvements, while Democrats were quick to point out that Fulton was the only county in the state to have its problems examined but not the only county with election problems. Either way, the bipartisan board found no crimes and no reason to doubt the county’s election results.

The politics were completely different, but there was a certain chill attitude in the board’s decision to wait until after the next election to make changes in the state’s election software which resonated with the way the Fulton County case was handled.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger argues that attempting to upgrade the state’s Dominion voting software by next year was risky because pilot tests have already turned up compatibility problems with Georgia’s voting machines. The existing system, he wrote in a letter to legislators, has been “proven and tested.”

This issue came up after the unsealing of a report by security expert Alex Halderman which makes the case that the Dominion system has vulnerabilities that could affect the outcome of elections in the state. Halderman conducted the study for a group of plaintiffs who are challenging the use of the Dominion machines.

Another study by the MITRE Corporation found that the chances of the system being hacked were extremely small. “It’s more likely that I could win the lottery without buying a ticket,” Raffensperger said in his letter to lawmakers.

But the findings in the MITRE report are contingent on Dominion having firm control of its software and hardware, and as Democrats have pointed out, there already has been a breach in that system when election officials in Coffee County gave Trump campaign operatives access to their offices on Jan. 7, 2021, the day after the Capitol riot.

Raffensperger’s response to the Halderman report has drawn criticism from experts in the field who say that legitimate concerns about voting systems are being treated like conspiracy theories.

On the other hand, anyone who has gone through a major system upgrade can relate to Raffensperger’s worries about something going wrong in the heat of an election campaign.

“We have layers of security protocols and procedures to physically protect ballots, the system, the software, and the results. We have tests and audits to verify results,” Raffensperger wrote. “We have to run elections in the real world, not just create conspiracies or hypothetical possibilities.”

Problem is, for the foreseeable future, conspiracies and hypothetical possibilities are going to be part of our real-world election environment.

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern...

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1 Comment

  1. Conspiracies and hypotheticals are about all some political parties have these days. No real policies are in place or even suggested by them. Like an old country saying, “They just want to muddy the water!”

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