Brookhaven, GA, May 16, 2017 – Perspective, by Garland Favorito – The State of Georgia held a special election on April 18, 2017 to fill the seat vacated by U.S. 6th District Congressman Tom Price. Rep. Price was appointed by President Trump as Secretary of Health and Human Services. The election that spanned Cobb, Dekalb and Fulton counties, garnered national attention as one of the first since the closely contested 2016 Presidential election.
On that same day, Fulton County also conducted a Johns Creek City Council special election and a Roswell City Council Runoff. When I voted in Roswell, I had to sign in twice, and vote twice on separate memory cards and different voting machines for each election. When I asked why weren’t the elections combined on one ballot no one at my precinct could tell me.
Throughout Election Night the interim reporting percentages for 6th District vote leader, Jon Ossoff hovered in the 50s but declined gradually to just over 50%. Cobb and Dekalb results were completed but there was a long delay in the results reporting for Fulton County. Finally just before midnight, more Fulton results were posted and the leader’s vote totals dropped below 50%, thus necessitating a runoff with the second place candidate according to Georgia law. That candidate, Karen Handel was nearly 30 points behind with 19% of the vote. The unofficial results and sequence of events drew national skepticism about the validity of the election. That continued a trend of national criticism that Georgia has received since 2002 when the state implemented what national experts call “unverifiable elections”.
The county, Secretary of State and local media outlets attributed the problem to human error involving a mix up of vote count memory cards between the different elections but these claims failed to answer the most serious technology and procedure questions such as:
- Why was Fulton County conducting three redundant elections on the same day?
- Why didn’t the voting software technology prevent the human error?
Fulton County Election Director Richard Barron explained the human error precisely to the Fulton County Commissioners the next day. I determined that his explanation was plausible and corroborated the sequence of events with the local technical staff. Poll workers from a precinct just 3 blocks from my house had accidentally loaded a voting machine memory card from the Roswell Runoff into the live election results for the 6th District special election. I realized that I was at the epicenter of the failure that night and immediately set about to document what really happened.
As I was working, one of our VoterGA members sent me a link to a statement that Secretary of State (SOS) Brian Kemp made rather angrily about the April 18th election reporting problem. He was quoted saying:
- “This is user error, not an equipment malfunction, and Fulton officials are ultimately responsible for the error. We have opened a formal investigation, and we will continue to gather the facts to find out exactly why this failure in training and basic procedure occurred,”
I was appalled that Secretary Kemp had already formed a conclusion to exonerate his office and assign all blame for the problem to Fulton County. I was even more appalled that he was opening an investigation to support his forgone conclusion. But I was most appalled that Secretary Kemp set the scope of the investigation so that it would never evaluate what really happened. I had seen these tactics used before both in state and federal investigations to prevent facts from being revealed to the general public. I realized that if Georgians were ever going to learn the truth about the root causes of what happened on April 18th VoterGA would have to produce a study.
I enlisted the help of VoterGA co-founder Ricardo Davis, who, like me is a career IT professional and has been involved with various aspects of Georgia’s voting machines since before they were implemented in 2002. I determined that the SOS office had not yet opened an investigation and completed a rough draft of our Root Cause Analysis. I also solicited help from some national voting experts. Ricardo and the national experts reviewed and edited the Root Cause Analysis where appropriate. We published our study before an investigator was ever assigned by the SOS office to investigate Fulton County. I guess that is another example of private enterprise advantages over government bureaucracy.
Our study concluded that improper election scheduling by the state and a city government caused the redundancy that required Fulton County to conduct three entirely separate elections on the same night. More importantly, the study found that critical voting equipment security flaws were the root causes of the human error that occurred. The voting software should have easily been able to detect invalid results from another election but it failed to do so at both the voting machine upload point and county database server import facility.
The election scheduling problem can be manually corrected in the future but the security flaws that allow invalid data to be injected into the live election results on the county server are another story. Although we will not have redundant elections in June, those security flaws will still be present for the June 20th runoff.
The study is available on the News tab at VoterGa.org or by clicking the image below. There is also a free presentation with lunch included at the Patriots Luncheon Thursday in Peachtree Corners at 11:30am. If you would like to attend this or a subsequent event as my guest you can call me by Wednesday for more information at 404-664-4044.