July 22, 2018

Dear Georgia County Commissioner:

Georgia’s and the nation’s election security has become an alarming topic of daily news. You and your fellow county commissioners have the authority and responsibility to immediately secure your county’s November election. This important authority to protect your county’s elections seems to be a well-kept secret. The purpose of this letter is to explain

1.      the commissioners’ statutory authority and responsibility to secure the election by adopting paper ballots,
2.      the built-in solution your county has available, and
3.      the necessity of taking prompt action to protect the upcoming elections. 

Additionally, this letter provides references and resources for your use in considering the most popular and secure method of balloting in the nation. Contrary to some voters’ belief, hand-marked paper ballots counted by optical scan is not a “step back” but is the modern “gold standard” recommended by virtually all voting-system computer scientists. 

County Commissioners’ authority to adopt paper ballots

Georgia statutes vest the authority in the county commissioners to choose a paper ballot/optical scan system. The Secretary of State has certified the Diebold Accu-vote optical scanner for use in Georgia’s elections. 

§21-2-366 The governing authority of any county or municipality may, at any regular meeting or at a special meeting called for the purpose, by a majority vote authorize and direct the use of optical scanning voting systems for recording and computing the vote at elections held in the county or municipality. If so authorized and directed, the governing authority shall purchase, lease, rent, or otherwise procure optical scanning voting systems conforming to the requirements of this part .

Counties own the hardware and software licenses

Most counties have an adequate supply of certified Diebold optical scanners, which are already used to count the votes on provisional and mail-in paper ballots. If the county desires to acquire or borrow more scanners, they are available essentially  cost-free from other jurisdictions that are upgrading their systems. 

Most counties have adequate inventory for using scanners in a central count operation in the election office as authorized by § 21-2-483. Alternatively, if counties prefer, one optical scanner can be located at each polling place, rather than counting centrally. Polling place optical scanning is a more secure practice.

Existing scanners count 30 ballots per hour. The scanners can adequately handle large volumes of ballots as is done all over the nation.

It is likely to take two to four years for Georgia to convert to a new voting system. Using Accu-vote optical scanning in the meantime provides a feasible and secure transition to a new voting system in future years. 

Paper ballots are urgently needed in Georgia

Georgia has been repeatedly named as the largest-population state in the category of  most vulnerable states for election security failures. Paperless voting systems simply cannot be secured. 

Georgia’s risk is exponentially increased because of its unique vulnerability to hacking and programming errors that cannot be mitigated. Compromised programs housed on a centralized state computer are used to program all voting machines, memory cards, and databases for each election. This approach creates a single point of possible failure. The system components have not been decontaminated since they were exposed for months on an insecure election server at KSU. These insecure components are being used in current elections. 

The  risk of compromised elections in Georgia is extreme , and the “warning lights are blinking red” for a cyber-attack in Georgia’s upcoming elections. The solution is relatively simple, would be quick, and should cost less than the current touchscreen DRE elections.

See the FAQs and the list of recommended reading to more fully understand the risk of Georgia’s system. As well, this material explains why Georgia’s current system is prohibited by federal law. 

Legal authority to adopt paper ballots 

Paralleling your authority as a Board of County Commissioners, other officials also have authority to sideline the touchscreen DREs as unsafe and insecure: 

1.      The Secretary of State can decertify the touchscreen system, leaving the optical scan system as the remaining certified system. However, Secretary Kemp has irresponsibly resisted  repeated calls to do so .  

2.      The State Election Board can repeal their improper rule requiring that all in-person voters use touchscreens. They exceeded their authority by making this rule in 2005. The statutes do not permit this restriction. (Thousands of citizens are  petitioning the State Board to repeal this rule.) 

3.      The Board of County Commissioners can independently and affirmatively use its statutory authority to choose optical scanning of paper ballots as noted above.

4.      The county Board of Elections can choose paper ballots if they determine that voting equipment is “impractical” to use. (§21-2-281). Just as they would mandate the use of paper ballots if a computer virus was detected or a power outage occurred---they can determine that the dangers inherent in the system render it “impractical.” Separately, the Board of County Commissioners has authority to select optical scans without having to make a subjective determination. 

In summary, the Board of County Commissioners is in the best position to act promptly to secure the elections without delays for legal interpretations of standards for an “impractical use” determination by the Board of Elections. Each Board of County Commissioners can use its authority to guarantee the rights of its citizens to have fair and verifiable elections. 

Encourage Election Director and Board of Elections actions

Some counties are learning that their voter registration rolls contain  hundreds of voters assigned to the wrong districts.  DeKalb and  Habersham counties have recently cited as examples. Please encourage your county’s election officials to immediately undertake an audit of the voter rolls for accuracy and proper jurisdictional assignments. 

The commissioners can further encourage the Board of Elections to develop post-election procedures to test and audit the results of a paper ballot election. The optical scanners and central tabulators are insecure and compromised as well, but paper ballots create the audit trail to test the results for accuracy. 


Please consider this urgent matter and its utmost importance in protecting Georgians’ most fundamental right. 

Feel free to call Marilyn Marks, Coalition for Good Governance, at 704-292- 9802 if you have questions about these issues. Click here for FAQs.  

Marilyn Marks
and its Georgia-based members

Dana Bowers, Ray Dafrico, Laura Digges,
Packy McKibben, and Megan Missett, 
on behalf of  Georgia Votes Paper