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Opinion Blogs
One Man's Opinion: First Bluster, Then Cluster, Now Let's Muster
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One Man's Opinion: First Bluster, Then Cluster, Now Let's Muster

One Man's Opinion: First Bluster, Then Cluster, Now Let's Muster
Photo Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger talks to the media in front of old voting machines while waiting for the largest shipment of Georgia’s new secure paper-ballot voting machines at the Dekalb County Voter Registration & Elections offices in Avondale Estates on Monday December 30th, 2019. 2839 units are to be delivered for Dekalb County. (Photo by Phil Skinner).

One Man's Opinion: First Bluster, Then Cluster, Now Let's Muster

Tuesday, June 9, 2020, will be an Election Day that thousands of Georgia voters may remember for years to come. Like so much else of 2020, it was an unpleasant surprise, complicated by promises to the contrary, foul weather, and in many places rank incompetence.

But I digress, let's back up and come at this as the situation on the ground evolved. Following the 2018 General Election in Georgia, several legal actions were filed, with a successful few having a major and lasting impact on Georgia elections. The most significant of those came in a federal court decision from U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg, directing the state of Georgia, and the office of Georgia Secretary of State that no further elections could be held using the Direct Recording Electronic voting machines (DRE's) after December 31, 2019. Though Judge Totenberg did NOT require Georgia to move to full paper balloting as the plaintiffs were seeking, the order effectively scrapped 27,000 of the old DRE machines heading into an election year. 

The Presidential Preference Primary, set for late March of 2020, typically has a turnout of between 25-35% of registered voters and advance voting was already underway, when a little something called the COVID19 pandemic was announced on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, and by Executive Order, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp issued an Emergency Order to shelter in place, closing schools, governments, and thousands of places of business statewide. The pandemic also ended in-person training on the newly selected voting equipment from Dominion Voting Systems all across the state in mid-March. 

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
People vote at voting booths in the Georgia's primary election at Park Tavern on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Atlanta.
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Activists cite tabulation flaw in mail-in ballots in Georgia

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
People vote at voting booths in the Georgia's primary election at Park Tavern on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Atlanta.

Without spending a lot of time on the finger-pointing which followed the disastrous June 9 General Primary Election Day and night, with final results still being tabulated as of this writing due to the record number of nearly 1.3 million absentee and advance votes, ballot tabulation is a local elections office responsibility, as are precinct locations and staffing, deployment of voting machines, printers and scanners and managing the actual elections process.

There are 159 very able County Election Superintendents, overseen by local boards of election, as well as several dozen more Municipal Election Superintendents and registrars in larger cities. 

Having spent five years in the office of Secretary of State during the administration of then SOS, Max Cleland, I can tell you that challenges with tabulating, late poll openings and extended hours, primarily once concentrated in north Fulton County suburbs, date back as far as the mid-1980s.

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
People vote at voting booths in the Georgia's primary election at Park Tavern on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Atlanta.
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Activists cite tabulation flaw in mail-in ballots in Georgia

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
People vote at voting booths in the Georgia's primary election at Park Tavern on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Atlanta.

Fulton is Georgia's most populous county, just over 100 miles long from end to end, and contains roughly 10 percent of all registered voters, but in 20 years of providing political analysis and commentary, I cannot remember an election night when Fulton County unofficial tabulation results were not the very last to be completed. 

The pandemic also cost Fulton County the use of more than 40 precincts, some withdrawing only days prior to the Primary. With the average age of poll workers in Georgia being 70, prior to this election, hundreds of experienced precinct captains and poll workers followed the Governor's continuing Shelter in Place order for those medically frail or over the age of 65, and they stayed at home. This election, with brand new equipment, would also feature hundreds of lightly trained Millenials, stepping into part-time paid and volunteer roles, with hundreds also never having actually seen or touched the new equipment in person...only having YouTube videos and Zoom/Skype training sessions to prepare for this Election Day. 

Add social distancing rules, on and off-again torrential rain and precincts moved without voters receiving notification and you have all the ingredients of a perfect storm to form a cluster ____. 

So after the well-deserved pride and bluster of the new equipment roll-out, came the cluster and system failure on Election Day. NOW it's time to muster the resources, reinforce and schedule more training, and perhaps look at reducing some steps in the new voting process, as well as even more strongly recommending advance and absentee balloting for the November General Election.

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
People vote at voting booths in the Georgia's primary election at Park Tavern on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Atlanta.
Close

Activists cite tabulation flaw in mail-in ballots in Georgia

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
People vote at voting booths in the Georgia's primary election at Park Tavern on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Atlanta.

Georgia has been again held up to international ridicule, in part due to a hangover of election/alleged voter suppression reporting and opinion in 2018. The only real way to ever shake away that shadow is to run a model, efficient and well-managed election this fall. Not doing so will have negative impacts for the state and both political parties, as well as potentially causing irreparable harm to voter confidence in one of the bedrocks of our republic, the right, and the importance of each and every individual ballot and vote. This one matters too much to spend another day playing the blame game. Just fix it.

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News

  • We know staying home has been the main way to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic, but which activities are safe and which are the riskiest? Can you still run to the store, have a barbecue or attend a celebration? Doctors with the Texas Medical Association have developed a chart that ranks the risks involved in various outings. The lowest risk according to the medical professionals is opening the mail. The highest risk -- going to a bar. The group said the rankings were compiled by experts from the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Task Force and the group’s Committee on Infectious Diseases, with the assumption that people who are participating are wearing a mask. Fourteen doctors were on the committee that made the list, KTVT reported. It was developed to help put the information that was available into one easy-to-understand presentation, KEYE reported. “People will have to decide what risk they think is reasonable for themselves and their families to take in order to live life,” Dr. Erica Swegler, a member of the taskforce, told KEYE. While the chart may be handy to gauge risk, the medical association said the best thing to do is, “stay home if possible, wear a mask and maintain at least 6 feet of distance when they have to go out, and practice safe hand hygiene,” KXAN reported.
  • The Chicago Blackhawks are bucking the trend of considering a name change. The NFL’s Redskins and the MLB’s Indians have both announced that they will consider changing the teams’ names and logos to something more culturally appropriate. But the Blackhawks will not. The name and image of a Native American warrior will be staying but the team’s officials said they will be “raising the bar even higher” to raise awareness of Native American culture. “The Chicago Blackhawks name and logo symbolizes an important and historic person, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation, whose leadership and life has inspired generations of Native Americans, veterans and the public,” the team said in a statement according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Team officials said they have worked with Native American groups “by offering ongoing reverent examples of Native American culture, traditions and contributions, providing a platform for genuine dialogue.” While the team won’t be changing its name, it does not discount the decisions of other professional sports teams to reevaluate their names and logos, The Associated Press reported. “We recognize there is a fine line between respect and disrespect, and we commend other teams for their willingness to engage in that conversation,” the team said. The hockey team honors Native Americans with pregame and intermission events, the Sun-Times reported. But there have been some Native American groups that have said the name and logo continue racist stereotypes. The Blackhawks, known as the Black Hawks, joined the NHL in March 1926 and was named by the owner Frederic McLaughlin after the unit he served with in World War I – the Blackhawk Division of the 86th Infantry, WMAQ reported. The NHL season has been suspended due to coronavirus, but training camps are set to start July 13 with games resuming Aug. 1, the NHL announced Monday.
  • A Texas boy is recovering after he was struck by gunfire twice in two separate drive-by shootings that happened just days apart. According to WOAI-TV, the shootings occurred late Saturday and early Tuesday at the same home on West Viola Avenue in Yakima, authorities said. In the first shooting, an 11-year-old boy suffered a gunshot wound to the leg, Yakima police said in a news release. In the second, the same boy was shot in the leg once, while his 9-year-old sister was shot in the leg twice, according to the release. The children were taken to a nearby hospital and released after receiving treatment, authorities said. In a statement, Yakima police Chief Matt Murray called the incidents 'heart-wrenching and alarming.' “The Police Department’s top priority is the reduction of violent crime – and these incidents are a glaring example of why,” Murray said. “But this is a community issue, and we need the community’s help to solve it and prevent further violence.” Authorities have not announced any arrests in the case. If you have information about the shootings, you can submit a tip anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-248-9980. Read more here or here.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp has asked the federal government to send more resources to expand COVID-19 testing in Gwinnett County and to renew funds needed to keep the National Guard staffing testing sites around the state. Kemp on Tuesday asked for help getting personal protective equipment like masks and gloves for the state’s first responders and essential workers and an extension in funding for the Georgia National Guard, which has been performing COVID-19 testing and sanitizing long-term care homes during the pandemic. In addition to sustaining the ongoing federal coronavirus assistance, Kemp is seeking additional funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to increase Gwinnett’s testing infrastructure, a spokesman said. Gwinnett has seen a surge in positive COVID-19 tests since mid-May, with 9,666 total as of July 6, according to the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments. Members of a federal COVID-19 response team visited Gwinnett County last week and are expected to compile a report detailing how spread could be further prevented. That report will be given to local health officials. >>Read MORE on AJC.com.
  • A driver died Wednesday morning after a fiery crash on a major interstate in Gwinnett County.  The wreck, which involved a truck and an SUV, happened about 1:30 a.m. on I-85 at Jimmy Carter Boulevard, according to Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Pihera.  The truck caught fire after the crash, and the driver had to be freed from the vehicle, she said.  A Gwinnett police officer was injured during the rescue effort, according to Pihera. The officer was checked out at a hospital and released.  One driver died on the way to a hospital, Pihera said. It is not clear which vehicle that person was driving.  No details were released about the second driver’s condition. — Return HERE for updates from The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
  • About a dozen American flags lined up along Highland Avenue in Needham, Massachusetts, were burned Sunday night, according to police. A dozen more flags set on the lawn near the Exchange Club were found destroyed, as well. According to Boston's WFXT, the flags have been replaced, but the ashes are still scattered along the grass. Longtime Needham resident Kate Robey takes it upon herself to display the flags on Highland Avenue during patriotic holidays. “I think everyone appreciates it. I get honks and the waves and the thank-yous,” Robey said. But this Fourth of July, the flags were vandalized. “Dedicated people put those out and to just burn them, nonchalantly, it’s hurtful,” said Robey. Robey has been working with the Needham VFW for years and has displayed these flags in the same parts of town for almost a decade now. She’s left confused and wondering why someone would vandalize her tribute to the men and women serving the country. “As I do the flags, I think of the veterans, fallen brave and the military out there fighting for our freedom now,” Robey said. Robey said about a dozen were burned by Memorial Park and a dozen more burned outside the Needham Exchange Club, where 500 flags were displayed in lieu of a scaled-back Fourth of July celebration. “I don’t mind what you do at your home with your flags, but these flags are my flags, and it’s vandalism,” Robey said. Police said they are investigating the matter.