The eyes of the nation are turning to Georgia’s twin Senate run-offs, as Georgia voters decide in January which party will control the U.S. Senate for the next two years. And it won’t be pretty. From accusations of voting machines “flipping votes,” to election day “glitches,” to multiple attempts to wipe records, the Peach state’s sloppy election practices are suddenly under scrutiny. But it didn’t have to be this way.
In the last few years, the Libertarian Party of Georgia and its candidates have sued, run candidates, written legislation, and lobbied for a handful of voting reforms that could have prevented this homegrown election disaster, by protecting and accurately recording every vote in Georgia. We have been blocked at every turn.
Brian Kemp, then Secretary of State and overseer of Georgia’s elections, “oversaw” his own election as Governor in 2018. He inherited a dodgy election system and has been further rigging it ever since.
Past Republican administrations railroaded every attempt to keep elections transparent and auditable. We went door to door in the legislature. We warned that the election results would be impossible to audit.
When the Governor plowed ahead with expensive, unaccountable voting machines, Libertarians did exactly what you should do to tyrants in a civilized society: we ran a candidate against him.
The Ones Who Saw It Coming
That candidate for Secretary of State (under newly minted Governor Kemp) was a cybersecurity wonk from Marietta named Smythe DuVal. DuVal’s campaign promises were nothing less, and nothing more, than free, transparent elections in Georgia. Everyone eligible must be allowed to vote, and has a right to ensure their vote is recorded properly.
He warned Georgia’s elite, and he called out his opponent Raffensberger on his complicity. His predictions now read like prophecy.
“Georgia’s dangerously outdated and vulnerable voting machines, paired with insidious attempts to disenfranchise minority voters, put the legitimacy of election results in question.” Smythe DuVal. 2018
“The state of Georgia election systems’ security and quality checks is abysmal. Georgia does not appear to have implemented any comprehensive security framework.” Smythe DuVal. 2018
“I’m calling for immediately decertifying the Diebold touchscreen machines AND immediately moving to a paper ballot system in order to maintain the voters’ trust in the election system. The next secretary of state is tasked with implementing a formal comprehensive cybersecurity framework in order to truly ramp up election security.” Smythe DuVal 2018
“The gold standard for reliable and secure voting system is a hand-marked paper ballot and post-election audits” to detect fraud. Smythe DuVal. 2018
“LP Georgia supports this effort to bring a transparent and honest evaluation process of any future Georgia voting systems that includes a robust cybersecurity risk assessment. This is a no-brainer. We must build voting systems that can be audited and verified in order to build and maintain public trust. We urge other political parties to join us in advocating for a reassessment.” 2018
Smythe DuVal earned 86,696 votes, and drove the race into a run-off between Kemp-Republican Brad Raffensberger and Democrat John Barrow. DuVal later endorsed Barrrow also, who shared many of DuVal’s misgivings about “Georgia’s broken election system.” Both had opposed the Dominion machines and proposal rushed through by Georgia Republicans led by Kemp and runoff victor, Secretary of State Raffensberger.
So we didn’t beat election corruption on the ballot. Next recourse to stop election rigging: use the Courts to demand your rights.
Smythe DuVal became co-plaintiff in a lawsuit with the Coalition for Good Governance, which attempted to stop state officials from purchasing insecure, outdated machines, wasting $105 million taxpayer dollars while making elections less transparent and less secure. The Coalition proposed a $35 million system that would leave a paper trail to protect against vote manipulation.
Georgia’s top officials refused. Kemp called our insistence on physical, readable ballots “hysterical.” Republicans authorized purchase of the black box machines and “ballot marking devices” which generate a machine-read barcode instead of ink or bubbles or anything a human could read. Election security experts say code-reading software could be manipulated to “read” something other than the voter’s intent.
Our lawsuits challenging the transparency and security of those machines were repeatedly dismissed by Georgia Judges. DuVal and others sued to hold election officials accountable, and were denied access to evidence needed for a forensic audit of machines.
Election Transparency: A Libertarian Priority
These most recent election hijinks are part of a much longer arc of corruption and attacks on the transparency of elections in Georgia. The Libertarian Party of Georgia was calling attention to the dangers of our state’s increasingly corrupt elections for years before DuVal ran against the establishment.
“The Libertarian Party and its members oppose any system of voting that does not provide for a clear method by which individual votes and vote totals may be fully and independently verified.” wrote LP Georgia Communications Director James Bell, in 2008.
“We need a voting system that is auditable and secure, the system we have now is not. I would like to see an electronic voting system that protects the citizens, but until then, I choose a proven method [hand marked paper ballots] over convenience [machine-read electronic barcodes],” echoed then-Chair Daniel Adams in the same year.
More than Machines: Other proposals for freer, fairer elections in Georgia
Many other reforms could improve Georgia’s elections, allowing more candidates to appear on the ballot and more voters’ interests to be represented. Here they are, in a 2018 sneak preview, on the back of a campaign t-shirt for Smythe DuVal. We’ll highlight a few more in coming days.
Policies proposed by Libertarians, dismissed as “hysterical” by the now-Governor, could have prevented Georgia’s current difficulties and the accompanying national embarrassment. The Libertarian Party remains committed to election reforms that ensure voters’ wishes are accurately recorded and honored, regardless of party or outcome.