An Update on Our Investigation into Georgia’s Election System and Voter-Roll Purges

EN ESPAÑOL

American Oversight launched the State Accountability Project in March 2019 with the goal of shedding light on voter suppression and election issues in Texas, Georgia, and Florida. Over the last nine months, we have worked in collaboration with local organizations in all three states to root out key election issues and to learn how best to deploy our expertise. We’ve filed more than 150 requests to county and state offices, on issues ranging from election security to voter-ID laws. As we enter 2020, we’re looking back on what we have discovered and sharing our plans for the Project’s future.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is known nationwide for his controversial 2018 election win over former State Rep. Stacey Abrams. His victory was hotly contested because of the voter roll purges and the polling place closures and relocations he encouraged in the months leading up to November — all favorite tactics of those seeking to limit the vote.

We began our work in Georgia with a suite of requests aimed at determining whether the offices of the governor and the secretary of state have communicated with “voter fraud” activist groups and individuals, such as True the Vote, the Heritage Foundation, and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. We also requested records of communication between those state offices and the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative model-legislation machine. The requests also went to 11 Georgia counties: Randolph, Macon-Bibb, Jefferson, Hancock, Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Clayton, Rockdale, and Dougherty. We selected these counties based on population size, demographics, and their history with voting-rights abuses. 

Our investigation also aims to uncover more details about the voter roll purges and polling place closures that led up to the 2018 election. We sent open records requests to the secretary of state’s office and multiple counties to find records of communications between state Elections Director Chris Harvey and each county’s elections administrators, specifically about voter roll maintenance. You can find those requests and the records they yielded here: Randolph, Macon-Bibb, Jefferson, Hancock, Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Clayton, Rockdale, Dougherty, and the secretary of state’s office.

On Dec. 16, 2019, Georgia followed through with its pledge to remove more than 300,000 names from the state’s voter rolls, including more than 100,000 people who hadn’t voted since at least 2012, but are otherwise eligible to vote. We asked the secretary of state’s office for records related to that voter roll purge as well as to polling place relocations and closures.

In following up on claims of voter suppression, we submitted requests to the governor’s and secretary of state’s offices asking for records related to Georgia’s contentious ”exact match” law, which set strict voter-ID rules for people showing up at the polls, requiring them to have a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license, that exactly matches their name on the voting registration. More specifically, we also filed a request with the Department of Driver Services about Puerto Ricans who reportedly faced discrimination in trying to obtain a driver’s license. We’re also investigating disenfranchisement on the county level, with requests that seek information on misdemeanor voting rights and on-campus voting.

But gerrymandered electoral maps and the use of redistricting to give certain candidates a leg up remain perhaps the most widespread form of voter suppression, seriously impacting the strength of each individual vote. We filed requests with the governor’s office and secretary of state’s office for communications with law firms and senior leadership handling redistricting

Our next suite of requests followed up on reports in January 2019 that Gov. Kemp hired a lobbyist from the company Election Systems & Software, Georgia’s former elections company. He later signed off on a $100 million deal with Dominion Voting Systems, a company for whom his longtime political and campaign aide Jared Thomas now lobbies. Suspicious of the coziness between Kemp and the two companies, we filed requests with the governor’s office and secretary of state’s office for their communications with both companies and their lobbyists, including exchanges that happened during Kemp’s time as secretary of state. 

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger drew criticism in August 2019 for signing off on Kemp’s new voting system deal without appropriately testing for security concerns. We requested any records of communication between the secretary of state’s office and Dominion Voting Systems to see what kind of relationship Raffensperger had with the company. We also asked the secretary of state’s office for communications between elections officials and any elections systems lobbyists. As a part of this investigation, we asked for records from the secretary of state’s office related to the Kennesaw State University elections server, which was erased under mysterious circumstances.

Polling machines and elections servers are controversial in Georgia because cybersecurity issues have plagued the state’s elections in recent years. Experts warn that Georgia’s new voting machines are not nearly secure enough to ensure safe and reliable elections. We were particularly interested in looking at how counties using new machines were instructed to secure their polling locations, so we sent requests to Paulding, Lowndes, Decatur, Carroll, Bartow, and Catoosa counties.

Though we are still expecting responses, documents we received in response to our Carroll County request raised concerns. Poll workers were instructed that the default password for  iPads used to check in voters and update statuses was “1234.” After this issue was reported on, state elections officials said that the password had been changed. 

This response from Carroll County is one of just a few substantive document productions we’ve received from Georgia. We’ve obtained a staggering number of “no records” responses, all of which are available here. We are actively working with Georgia public records officials to clarify our requests and resolve outstanding issues. 

As we look to 2020, we plan to continue our ongoing investigations and expand to cover new issues. Here are a few of our priorities for the next year of voting defense in Georgia: 

  • Winter 2019 voter purges: Over 300,000 voters have had their voter registrations canceled this month in a mass voter roll purge. We plan to fully investigate this decision.
  • HBCUs and on-campus voting: Georgia is home to ten historically black colleges and universities. We plan to request records related to the availability of on-campus polling places at these universities.
  • State-funded nonprofit organizations: In 2020, we plan to request information about the nonprofit organizations in Georgia that receive state grants. 
  • Voter registration cut-offs: We’re interested in taking a look at voter registration deadlines. We plan to send requests to see how many eligible voters registered after the registration deadline but before the election. 

 

Una Actualización de Nuestro Investigación de la Sistema de Elección y las Purgas de Votantes en Georgia

American Oversight lanzó el Proyecto Estatal de Rendición de Cuentas en marzo de 2019 con la meta de arrojar luz sobre la represión del voto y problemas con elecciones en Texas, Georgia, y Florida. A lo largo de los últimos nueve meses, hemos trabajado en colaboración con organizaciones locales en los tres estados para identificar las cuestiones claves y aprender cómo podemos hacer mejor uso de nuestra pericia. Hemos presentado más de 150 solicitudes en oficinas locales de condados y estatales, sobre una variedad de temas como seguridad de las elecciones y leyes de identificación de votantes. A medida que ingresamos al nuevo año, repasamos lo que hemos descubierto, y compartimos nuestro plan para el futuro del Proyecto.

El gobernador de Georgia Brian Kemp es reconocido por todo el país por su victoria controvertida ante la anterior representante de estado Stacey Abrams. Su triunfo fue disputado acaloradamente a causa de los purgados de las listas de electores y las clausuras y reubicaciones de los lugares de votación que él alentaba en los meses antes de noviembre – todas las tácticas favoritas de aquellos que quieren limitar el voto. 

Empezamos nuestro trabajo en Georgia con una serie de solicitudes para determinar si las oficinas del gobernador y el secretario del estado se habían comunicado con individuos y grupos activistas de “fraude electoral,” como True the Vote, el Heritage Foundation, y el ex secretario de estado de Kansas Kris Kobach. También presentamos solicitudes por expedientes de comunicaciones entre aquellas oficinas estatales y el American Legislative Exchange Council, la máquina del modelo de legislación conservadora. Las solicitudes también se enviaron a 11 condados en Georgia: Randolph, Macon-Bibb, Jefferson, Hancock, Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Clayton, Rockdale, y Dougherty. Estos condados fueron seleccionados por el tamaño de la población, la demografía, y el historial de cada condado con abusos de los derechos al voto. 

Nuestra investigación también tiene como objetivo descubrir más detalles sobre los purgados de las listas de electores y las clausuras de lugares de votación que se llevaron a cabo en el período previo a la elección de 2018. Enviamos solicitudes de registros públicos a la oficina del secretario de estado y varios condados para encontrar expedientes de comunicación entre el director de elecciones Chris Harvey y los administradores electorales de cada condado, específicamente sobre el mantenimiento de las listas de electores. Puedes encontrar esas solicitudes y los documentos que generaron aquí: Randolph, Macon-Bibb, Jefferson, Hancock, Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Clayton, Rockdale, Dougherty, y la oficina del secretario de estado.

El 16 de diciembre de 2019, Georgia cumplió con su promesa de eliminar más de 300,000 nombres de las listas de electores del estado, incluyó más de 100,000 personas que no habían votado desde al menos el 2012, pero de otra manera son elegibles para votar. También le preguntamos a la oficina del secretario de estado por expedientes relacionados con esa purga de las listas, además de las clausuras y reubicaciones de los lugares de votación. 

En el seguimiento de las reclamaciones de supresión del voto, presentamos solicitudes a las oficinas del gobernador y el secretario de estado por documentos relacionados con la ley disputada de “coincidencia exacta” (“Exact Match Rule.” La “coincidencia exacta” puso reglas estrictas en los documentos de identificación aceptados de los electores, requiriendo que tengan una credencial de elector emitido por el gobierno, como una licencia de manejar, que refleje el mismo nombre exacto que se encuentra en el registro de votantes. Además, presentamos específicamente una solicitud con el Departamento de Servicios al Conductor sobre los puertorriqueños que presuntamente enfrentaron discriminación cuando trataron de obtener una licencia de manejar. También estamos investigando el desapoderamiento al nivel de condado, con solicitudes que buscan información sobre los derechos al voto de personas con delitos menores, y la votación en campus

Pero los mapas manipulados de circunscripciones y el uso de la redistribución electoral para dar a algunos candidatos la ventaja, permanecen quizás las formas más universales del supresión del voto, impactando gravemente la fuerza de cada voto individuo. Presentamos solicitudes con las oficinas del gobernador y secretario de estado por comunicaciones con bufetes de abogados y altos funcionarios que maneja la redistribución electoral. 

Nuestra próxima serie de solicitudes siguió los informes de enero 2019 que reportaron que el gobernador Kemp contrató un miembro de un grupo de presión de la empresa Election Systems & Software, la ex compañía de elecciones de Georgia. Luego, Kemp autorizó un trato de $100 millón con Dominion Voting Systems, una empresa para quien su ayudante político y de campaña de largo tiempo Jared Thomas ahora trabaja. Sospechosos de la conexión íntima entre Kemp y las dos empresas, presentamos solicitudes con la oficina del gobernador y el secretario de estado por sus comunicaciones con las dos empresas y sus cabilderos, incluyendo conversaciones que ocurrieron durante el tiempo cuando Kemp era el secretario de estado.   

El secretario de estado de Georgia Brad Raffensperger fue criticado en agosto 2019 cuando aceptó el trato del  sistema de votación de Kemp sin evaluar a el sistema por riesgos de seguridad. Presentamos solicitudes por cualquier expediente de comunicación entre la oficina del secretario de estado y Dominion Voting Systems para ver qué tipo de relación tenía Raffensperger con la empresa. También le preguntamos a la oficina del secretario de estado por expedientes de comunicación entre funcionarios de elecciones y cualquier cabildero de empresas de sistemas de votación. Como una parte de esta investigación, preguntamos por los documentos de la oficina del secretario de estado relacionados con el servidor de elecciones de Kennesaw State University, que fue borrado bajo circunstancias misteriosas. 

Máquinas de votación y servidores de elecciones son polémicos en Georgia porque cuestiones de seguridad cibernética han plagado las elecciones del estado en años recientes. Expertos advierten que las nuevas máquinas de votación no son suficientemente seguras para asegurar elecciones seguras y fiables. En particular, estábamos interesados en ver cómo se les instruyó a los condados utilizando las nuevas máquinas para asegurar las ubicaciones de votación, así que presentamos solicitudes a los condados de Paulding, Lowndes, Decatur, Carroll, Bartow, y Catoosa.

Aunque todavía esperamos respuestas, documentos que recibimos en requesta a nuestra solicitud del condado de Carroll nos causó preocupación. Los trabajadores electorales fueron instruidos que la contraseña por defecto para los iPads que usaron para registrar y actualizar el estatus de votantes era “1234.” Después de que se informara sobre este problema, funcionarios de elecciones estatales dijeron que la contraseña se había cambiado.

Esta respuesta del condado de Carroll es solo uno de los documentos sustantivos que hemos recibido de Georgia. Hemos obtenido un número asombroso de respuestas que indican “no expedientes,” todos los cuales están disponibles aquí. Estamos trabajando activamente con los oficiales de registros públicos en Georgia para clarificar nuestras solicitudes y resolver problemas pendientes. 

Mientras miramos hacia 2020, hay varias áreas de interés que continuaremos siguiendo y a la vez planeamos cubrir nuevos temas. Algunas de nuestras prioridades para el próximo año en defensa del voto en Georgia:

  • Los purgados del invierno de 2019: Este mes, se les ha cancelado a más de 300,000 electores sus registros de votantes en una purga masiva y complicada de las listas de electores. Planeamos en investigar completamente esta decisión. 
  • HBCUs y la votación en campus: Georgia es el hogar de más de 10 colegios y universidades históricamente afroamericanas. Planeamos en preguntar por documentos relacionados a la disponibilidad de lugares de votación en campus en estas universidades. 
  • Organizaciones sin fines de lucro financiados por el estado: En 2020, planeamos en presentar solicitudes para información sobre las organizaciones sin fines de lucro en Georgia que reciben subvenciones estatales. 
  • Las fechas límites para registración de votantes: Estamos interesados en las fechas límites para el registro de votantes. Planeamos preguntar por los números de votantes que se registraron antes de la elección pero después de la fecha límite. 

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