Conspiracy theorists turn Georgia vote hearing into circus
Most voters probably consider legislative hearings on voting machine software upgrades about as interesting as watching beige paint dry, and understandably.
They can be tedious, but the most recent Senate Ethics hearing was far different. Held on Nov. 1, the committee asked the secretary of state’s office to testify on the planned software update for the state’s Dominion voting machines.
According to a report, several theoretical vulnerabilities in our voting systems may currently exist, and Dominion has released new software to address them. However, it could be after the presidential primary before it is installed on all of Georgia’s terminals, and lawmakers want to know why.
While an important topic, citizen activists at the hearing seemed more interested in hijacking it with unfounded conspiracy theories—undermining the importance of the matter.
It’s critical to have safe and secure elections that garner Georgians’ trust, and the current system ought to inspire confidence. The secretary of state’s office announced that they’ve instituted mitigating safeguards, including conducting voting system “health checks” in all 159 counties, to protect against the aforementioned hypothetical risks – and despite debunked conspiracy theories still circulating – Georgia’s system works. As Senate Ethics Chairman, Sen. Max Burns, R-Sylvania, said during the hearing, “I want to go on record as saying I have complete confidence in the Georgia voting system as it exists today.”
That said, updating the state’s voting software should receive special consideration, but the secretary of state’s office is asking for patience. “Because our system is not connected to the internet, we can’t just push a button and send the update out. We have to physically touch every piece of election equipment,” Charlene McGowan, general counsel for the secretary of state’s office responded.
The state has around 40,000 machines, and they must be updated manually one-by-one and the update needs to be thoroughly tested—all of which takes time and money. An insider tells me that the high cost of applying the system upgrade in short order is daunting.
Certainly if this is the case, then the Legislature—which controls the state’s purse-strings—could consider allocating funds to expedite the process. “We don’t have a resolution,” Burns admitted, “but we’re working toward actions that can hopefully get us to a much better place.”
While that could have ended the matter for now, more than a dozen people signed up to testify before the committee, and their remarks demonstrated a stark disconnect with reality and their desire to relitigate former President Donald J. Trump’s losing 2020 campaign.
Multiple testifiers said that they don’t care if Georgia adopted the software update or not because they don’t trust the current system in any form. Instead, they suggested moving to an antiquated voting model, relying only on hand-counted, hand-marked paper ballots. It would take considerable time to declare winners in elections in such a system—leading to long delays that would further shake trust in election results.
Another speaker who was wearing an oversized scarf emblazoned with the letters T-R-U-M-P announced, “Those [Dominion] machines does flip those votes (sic).” She continued, “That machine—I saw it with these two eyes—changed my vote.” Another audience member agreed and claimed that she knew of others who had their votes altered, although her allegations were short on details and evidence.
Seriously? Flipped votes?
The secretary of state’s office previously addressed this, stating, “I’ve never had one single election official call me up and say […] I’ve got a problem with my ballot marking device flipping votes. You can’t gain that level of access to be able to make adjustments to a ballot marking device.”
Likewise, this has been raised in the courts. “Dominion had asked for $1.6 billion in arguing that Fox News had damaged its reputation by helping peddle phony conspiracy theories about its equipment switching votes from former President Donald Trump to Democrat Joe Biden,” reported PBS.
Fox ultimately reached a settlement with Dominion and paid it nearly $800 million. While I can’t say for certain, I’d think Dominion would be willing to bet around $800 million that votes didn’t flip from Trump to Biden, as has been suggested.
Many others at the hearing seemed as though they simply wanted to air their grievances because they believe Trump won in 2020, but was cheated. How, pray tell, could this have happened? There were no good answers. Numerous audits, lawsuits and analyses have all failed to show that such claims carry any water whatsoever.
As it turns out, unfounded conspiracy theories die hard, which is unfortunate with elections upcoming, but regardless of how the Legislature and the secretary of state’s office resolves the Dominion software update, voters should have confidence in elections.
The state has numerous investigators, audits to verify results and countermeasures to fortify the system against fraud.