By Tia Lynn Ivey
Morgan County Election Supervisor Jennifer Doran was summoned to testify last week for an ongoing lawsuit against the Governor of Georgia Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The case, launched by the Coalition of Good Governance, revolves around the issue of switching to paper ballots due to election security concerns in the State of Georgia and “missing votes” in the Georgia Lieutenant Governor race during the November 2018 Midterm election.
Doran’s testimony comes on the heels of subpoena served to the Morgan County Board of Elections and Registration (BOER) in May requesting voting data as part of a statewide investigation into alleged “missing votes.”
Doran testified in a deposition for three hours, answering questions about election security, ballot secrecy, and the feasibility of using paper ballots in the November 2019 election. The BOER partially complied to a subpoena requesting voting data, but filed objections, along with the State of Georgia, to some of the requested data they believe would violate the Georgia Constitution–mainly any data from the Global Election Management System (GEMS) database.
“We have complied with everything that we can,” said Doran. “The court has not yet issued a protective order, so the state feels like there are certain documents that cannot be turned over without a protective order…There has been a misconception that our county is fighting the subpoena, but what we are doing is protecting our elections. We sought out our attorney to make sure we turned over what we could and not anything that would endanger the infrastructure of the election process.”
Doran also noted that she testified a switch to paper ballots by the next election would be feasible should the court order it by mid-August.
“If we get the equipment in time, we would be able to handle it if the court orders it,” said Doran.
According to Doran, there is a pending motion to move the entire state of Georgia to paper ballot to be heard on July 25 by Judge Amy Totenberg. “We expect a ruling by mid-August,” said Doran.
Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, was impressed with Doran’s testimony.
“Ms. Doran presented information about Morgan County’s election processes thoroughly and in such an organized manner that her testimony will no doubt help the Court and all parties understand the processes much better. Morgan County clearly is lucky to have such a well-organized, knowledgeable and responsible official running its elections,” said Marks.
However Marks took issue with state leadership regarding election security.
“What was a surprise is the level of repeated intrusion over the last year by the Secretary of State’s office to prevent the Morgan County Board of Elections from making decisions that benefit Morgan County voters’ election security,” said Marks. “The Secretary’s admonitions to Morgan County that counties do not have the legal authority to conduct paper ballot elections were particularly frustrating, given that the Court has ruled that there is no such statute preventing paper ballot elections. Further, the Secretary’s insistence to the Ms. Doran and the Court that ballots are traceable back to the voter, but failing to explain how and why this is the case is quite alarming.”
Marks is concerned with the upcoming election if Georgia fails to switch to paper ballots.
“It is clear from Ms. Doran’s deposition that Morgan County, like the rest of the State, seems to have been given little information from the Secretary of State on how the new voting system can possibly be workable for the presidential primary, or how it can ever produce auditable results,” said Marks. “The question of how much additional cost of the new system will land on the local taxpayers seems also to be a big question for which the state is providing no answers—only adding to the financial stress on the local county budgets. We at Coalition for Good Governance hope that the Morgan County Election Board will rely on Ms. Doran’s expertise to immediately choose to adopt hand marked paper ballot elections that can be audited, beginning with the November municipal elections.”
The controversy began over an investigation conducted by the Coalition for Good Governance, which found approximately 127,000 fewer votes were recorded in the 2018 Lt. Governor’s contest than experts estimated should have been cast. Morgan County was “missing” 295 votes. “Statistical analyses and experts’ reports expose a dramatically increased number of missing votes (undervotes or drop-off in votes compared to the top-of-the-ballot contest) for the Lt. Governor’s contest in primarily African American neighborhood precincts,” claimed the report. The same racially disparate findings were true of Morgan County as well, with missing votes coming from a predominantly African-American district.
The BOER decided in an executive session at the end of May to object to various requests in the subpoena.
The subpoena, from the Coalition for Good Governance, – a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that focuses on election transparency and verifiability – includes 27 categories of information requested. The BOER decided in an executive session to dispute nine of those categories.
“We have handed over all the public documents requested,” said Doran. “There hasn’t been a ruling yet on the subpoena or protective order. At this time, we have given all that we can.”