Getting Rid of Dominion Voting Systems
Why Dominion electronic ballot markers (and scanning systems) need to go
The simplest argument you can make to Georgia officials is that these machines violate state law. Section 21-2-300 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (“OCGA”) states that this equipment must be used in all federal, state, and county elections held in Georgia. However, it adds a caveat: “provided, however, that such electronic ballot markers shall produce paper ballots which are marked with the elector's choices in a format readable by the elector.” (emphasis added) In addition, Section 21-2-2 (7.1) provides that these machines must “print an elector verifiable paper ballot”. (emphasis added)
Groups like Voter GA have done an excellent job pointing out that the ballots produced by Dominion ballot markers contain a QR code that is used to tabulate each person’s vote. Although the ballots (supposedly) also list the voter’s choices in written format, this is not what is used to tabulate the vote after it is scanned – the QR code alone is used. The QR code could (hypothetically) denote a vote for Candidate A – even if Candidate B is displayed in writing as the voter’s selection. The QR code is obviously not “readable” or “verifiable” by the elector, and thus these electronic ballot markers violate the code sections above.
Judge Amy Totenberg agreed in her October 11th, 2020 ruling in the Curling v. Raffensberger suit. She stated that “the Dominion BMD system does not produce a voter-verifiable paper ballot or a ballot marked with the voter’s choices in a format readable by the voter because the votes are tabulated solely from the unreadable QR code.” Judge Totenberg declined to grant an injunction against the use of the machines because the 2020 general election was too close in time, but she did concede that the electronic ballot markers violate Georgia law.
Beyond the issue with QR codes, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (a federal agency) released an advisory on June 3rd of 2022 which identified nine different vulnerabilities associated with the Dominion voting machines used in our state. Even if QR codes are removed from the ballots produced by these machines, it has been shown that the scanned images of ballots can be manipulated. Currently, these scanned images are all Georgia citizens have to verify the accuracy of the vote count. Therefore, unless the physical ballots (or photocopies) are reviewable by the citizenry, there is no way to have confidence in tabulated results. To this point, the Secretary of State’s office has fought to prevent this sort of access.
At your county elections board
Your county elections board has the ability (and the authority) to discontinue the use of Dominion voting machines in the elections conducted within the county. OCGA 21-2-334 states:
“If a method of nomination or election for any candidate or office, or of voting on any question is prescribed by law, in which the use of voting machines is not possible or practicable, or in case, at any primary or election, the number of candidates seeking nomination or nominated for any office renders the use of voting machines for such office at such primary or election impracticable, or if, for any other reason, at any primary or election the use of voting machines wholly or in part is not practicable, the superintendent may arrange to have the voting for such candidates or offices or for such questions conducted by paper ballots. In such cases, paper ballots shall be printed for such candidates, offices, or questions, and the primary or election shall be conducted by the poll officers, and the ballots shall be counted and return thereof made in the manner required by law for such nominations, offices, or questions, insofar as paper ballots are used.” (emphasis added)
Note that “the superintendent” is defined in 21-2-2 (35)(A) as “Either the judge of the probate court of a county or the county board of elections, the county board of elections and registration, the joint city-county board of elections, or the joint city-county board of elections and registration, if a county has such…” (emphasis added)
Section 21-2-281 reinforces the provisions of 21-2-334 by stating:
“In any primary or election in which the use of voting equipment is impossible or impracticable, for the reasons set out in Code Section 21-2-334, the primary or election may be conducted by paper ballot in the manner provided in Code Section 21-2-334.” (emphasis added)
Presumably, this “voting equipment” language was included to ensure that 21-2-334 applies to all sorts of voting devices (lever machines, electronic ballot markers, etc.). In any event, the Dominion ballot markers are clearly covered.
There is similar language found in the rules of the Georgia State Elections Board. This language is a bit more stringent than the language found within the OCGA, but it allows for the same goal to be accomplished. State Elections Board (“SEL”) rule 183-1-12-.11(c) states:
“If an emergency situation makes utilizing the electronic ballot markers impossible or impracticable, as determined by the election superintendent, the poll officer shall issue the voter an emergency paper ballot that is to be filled out with a pen after verifying the identity of the voter and that the person is a registered voter of the precinct.”
Part (d) of the above rule adds:
“While the determination of an emergency situation is in the discretion of the election superintendent, the types of events that may be considered emergencies are power outages, malfunctions causing a sufficient number of electronic ballot markers to be unavailable for use, or waiting times longer than 30 minutes.”
Merriam Webster dictionary defines the verb “malfunction” to mean: “to function imperfectly or badly”. It is very fair to argue that electronic ballot markers which do not print elector readable or verifiable ballots – and therefore violate critical Georgia statutes that are in place to protect our elections – constitute an emergency situation where their use is impracticable. These machines (and the QR code ballots produced) cannot be used in a way that does not Georgia law. Their use is impracticable.
It should be noted that State Election Board rules already require boards of elections to keep plenty of emergency paper ballots on hand in case of an emergency. Rule 183-1-12-.01 states:
“The Superintendent shall cause every polling place and advance voting location to have a sufficient number of blank paper ballots that can be marked by pen available for use in the event of emergency. The election superintendent shall also be prepared to resupply polling places with emergency paper ballots in needed ballot styles in a timely manner while voting is occurring so that polling places do not run out of emergency paper ballots.”
There is also language in the Georgia code authorizing boards of elections to discontinue ballot scanning systems. Section 21-2-379 states:
“If a method of nomination or election for any candidate or office, or of voting on any question is prescribed by law, in which the use of optical scanning voting systems is not possible or practicable, or in case, at any primary or election, the number of candidates seeking nomination or nominated for any office renders the use of optical scanning voting systems for such office at such primary or election impracticable, or if, for any other reason, at any primary or election the use of optical scanning voting systems wholly or in part is not practicable, the superintendent may arrange to have the voting for such candidates or offices or for such questions conducted by any other lawful method authorized in this chapter. In such cases, appropriate ballots shall be printed for such candidates, offices, or questions, and the primary or election shall be conducted by the poll officers, and the ballots shall be counted and return thereof made in the manner required by law for such method.” (emphasis added)
At your county board of commissioners
There is also an argument that your county board of commissioners has the ability to discontinue the use of ballot scanning systems in elections that take place there. Removing these scanning systems would force a hand recount and go a long way toward mitigating the risks associated with Dominion Voting Systems as a whole. OCGA 21-2-366 states:
“The governing authority of any county or municipality may, at any regular meeting or at a special meeting called for the purpose, by a majority vote authorize and direct the use of optical scanning voting systems for recording and computing the vote at elections held in the county or municipality. If so authorized and directed, the governing authority shall purchase, lease, rent, or otherwise procure optical scanning voting systems conforming to the requirements of this part.”
If boards of commissioners have the power to authorize the use of these scanning systems within their county, it follows that they can remove that authorization.
In addition, citizens can pressure their county board of commissioners to withhold some or all funding provided to the county elections department to run elections. The threat of withheld funds should incentivize elections departments to discontinue the use of Dominion ballot markers and scanning systems.
The “power of the purse” is commonly used in politics to influence other areas of government. There is no reason why it can’t (or shouldn’t) be used by boards of commissioners to ensure that voting systems used within the county do not violate Georgia law. After all, this protects the rights and interests of the citizens of that county. Look at budget reports from previous years to get an idea of how much funding your board of commissioners provides to the county elections department (and for what purposes).