Brian Kemp, with his daughter Amy Porter, casts his vote at the Winterville Train Depot on Nov. 6, 2018, in Winterville. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

The Jolt: A preview of what a voting machine overhaul could look like

The group appointed by Brian Kemp to recommend a new voting system will meet Wednesday for the first time since the election. And a series of recommendations from a panelist obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sets some goal posts for what they could address.

The report from Wenke Lee, a Georgia Tech professor who serves as the panel’s cybersecurity expert, outlines the potential threats to the state’s outdated voter machines and notes the CIA has even gone away from digital storage of some top-secret data.

Lee’s report offers a detailed push for more secure software and a paper balloting system that is “easily and clearly readable and manually countable.” The most secure system, Lee wrote, would require voters to hand mark paper ballots that are then scanned and tallied electronically - but also dropped in a physical safe box. 

That’s a distinction from Republican officials, including incoming Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who prefer ballot marking devices that would use touch screens to print out paper ballots.

And Lee urges Georgia to lease voting machines rather than purchase them so the state can “ensure its voting system is built on top of the latest generation of security technologies provided via the latest hardware and operating systems.”

Read the letter here.

Georgia lawmakers generally agree that the state should switch to a new voting system with a verifiable paper trail to double-check results and prevent potential fraud. But the swirl of voting rights concerns springing from the November race for governor has heightened the debate.

***

Geoff Duncan hasn’t been sworn in yet, but he’s already proving his political chops in his complicated new role.

The incoming Republican lieutenant governor won a major behind-the-scenes battle at Monday’s legislative biennial, avoiding an attempt that could have limited some of his powers.

The Senate GOP caucus met behind closed doors to discuss an attempt to overhaul the Committee on Assignments, the powerful group that Duncan will chair. The committee is the epicenter of Senate politics, and its job includes hashing out sought-after postings.

Under the current law, the committee includes five members: The president pro tem, the chamber’s majority leader, the lieutenant governor and two members appointed by him. That would give Duncan, who has the power to break ties, a 3-2 advantage.

From time to time, other party leaders have been added on an interim basis. But Senate leaders pushed on Monday to codify two additions: The majority whip and the caucus chair. That would shift the balance of power away from the lieutenant governor.

The plan’s supporters say it aimed to set into law a practice that Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle embraced of expanding the committee’s membership. But Duncan’s allies worried it would bring a return to chaotic rule-by-committee and weaken the chamber’s top executive.

The latter argument won out: After an intense lobbying effort, Duncan and his allies in the Senate prevailed and the rule change was nixed.

***

Brian Kemp is going to the White House. 

Kemp will meet with President Donald Trump on Thursday afternoon, along with other governors-elect. Georgia’s future first lady, Marty, will also be in town. She’s scheduled to huddle with Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue while her husband is with the president.

***

Call it a plea for bipartisanship and even-handedness as a looming constitutional crisis threatens to further split the country. 

That’s the underlying message in a Washington Post op-ed penned by 44 former U.S. senators, including Georgia Democrats Max Cleland, Sam Nunn and Wyche Fowler. The bipartisan group warns the country is entering a “dangerous period” as the Mueller probe reaches its crescendo and House Democrats gear up to investigate the president.

The op-ed is vague, but it urges current senators to be “steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest.”

“At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time,” wrote the group, which also includes John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, Dick Luger and Tom Daschle.

***

One of the senators that group is hoping to reach is Perdue. The Republican on Monday was more focused on a bipartisan criminal justice overhaul that’s currently sputtering in the chamber. 

Perdue announced his support for the bill after winning changes that would make it harder for violent offenders to secure reduced prison sentences.

"After working closely with the Trump Administration, we were able to address several concerns that I have had with certain provisions," Perdue said about the bill, which he said would "help make our federal prison system fair to all, while still providing severe deterrents to criminal behavior." 

Perdue’s backing is notable, since he helped kill another criminal justice overhaul back in 2016 for not being tough enough on criminals. Another opponent of the 2016 effort, Texas Republican Ted Cruz, announced his support for the current legislation last week. Georgia’s Johnny Isakson is also a fan

Backers of the bill are trying to muscle it through the chamber before the end of the year. Despite support from the president, it’s appearing increasingly unlikely that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will bring it up for a vote in the weeks ahead. 

Never miss a minute of what’s happening in Georgia Politics. Subscribe to PoliticallyGeorgia.com

Related Stories

X