Opinion: County election officials are doing their jobs

November 13, 2020 Lawrenceville - Election workers in Gwinnett County began working through a recount of 414,000 ballots Friday morning, representing nearly 10% of all votes cast in the state at Gwinnett County Election headquarters in Lawrenceville on Friday, November 13, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
November 13, 2020 Lawrenceville - Election workers in Gwinnett County began working through a recount of 414,000 ballots Friday morning, representing nearly 10% of all votes cast in the state at Gwinnett County Election headquarters in Lawrenceville on Friday, November 13, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The integrity of Georgia’s elections is being attacked by a handful of high-ranking officials at the state and national level, undermining public confidence in our systems. Here’s the truth -- false allegations of problems with Georgia’s elections are damaging to our democratic institutions.

I should know. After spending most of my career supporting conflict resolution and democratization efforts around the world for The Carter Center, I became the nation’s first full-time, year-round Voter Protection Director for the Democratic Party of Georgia in early 2018 and went on to build the most comprehensive voter protection program in the country.

Captured at  in Marietta, Georgia, USA — settings: Camera: ILCE-9, focal length: 167mm, SS: 1/320, Aperture: f/2.8, ISO: 400, Flash: off — by Kevin Lowery
Captured at in Marietta, Georgia, USA — settings: Camera: ILCE-9, focal length: 167mm, SS: 1/320, Aperture: f/2.8, ISO: 400, Flash: off — by Kevin Lowery

Credit: Kevin Lowery

Credit: Kevin Lowery

I remained as Voter Protection Director until December of 2019, when I resigned to run for the State House. On Nov. 4, the day after I lost my race, I began to volunteer as a member of the public to observe absentee and provisional ballot processing and tabulation in Cobb County, one of the suburban counties of Atlanta which Biden won definitively. What I saw was that every vote was being counted, every ballot accounted for, and traced back to an eligible voter.

Every absentee ballot with an unclear or stray mark was submitted to a bipartisan vote review panel to determine the voter’s intent. Local party representatives almost universally agreed on how each ballot should be interpreted. Throughout it all, county election officials worked incredibly hard to be both professional and transparent. This is how elections must be run in our democracy.

Republican officials have been present as observers, accredited poll watchers, and members of vote review panels every step of the way. County officials allowed accredited poll watchers on the counting floors according to state laws. Yet GOP officials tried to force more observers onto the floor and complained bitterly that only those whose names had been submitted in advance were the ones allowed. Republican attorneys tried to change vote review panel members, in contravention of state law. County officials stopped these changes and forced all parties to adhere to the rules established by the county election supervisor.

The only lawful basis to contest an election would be to assert facts that, if proven, would overturn the results of the election by disqualifying more votes than the margin of victory.

As I wrote this, President-elect Joe Biden led the vote count in Georgia by more than 12,500 votes. There is no factual basis to assert that 12,500 invalid votes were cast. None. And no one has even argued that invalid votes were cast.

The remedy to an election in which the number of invalid votes surpasses the margin of victory is not handing victory to the loser -- it is a new election.

No one wants a new election — they simply want to “win” despite the will of the voters.

Voters should decide who should hold elected office, and elected officials should ensure that every eligible voter has the same access to participate by casting a ballot.

A fractured nation has no room for political theater. Throwing around terms like “illegal votes” without a shred of evidence that any malfeasance has taken place is a cynical exploitation of public fears that will damage our state and our nation.

Sara Tindall Ghazal, an attorney, lives in Marietta with her husband, daughters and a menagerie of dogs and cats.

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