Chaos in Georgia, Part II

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10 mins read
ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 09: People wait in line to vote in Georgia's Primary Election on June 9, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Georgia, West Virginia, South Carolina, North Dakota, and Nevada are holding primaries amid the coroanvirus pandemic (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Part I is here.

(Information from this thread is taken from the report I’m currently working on for the Georgia Voter Protection Organization.)

In March when the pandemic hit, the GA Secretary of State mailed applications for Vote By Mail (VBM) ballots to all voters on the rolls: 6.9 million. It was a good idea. Let people vote by mail and avoid polling places

Then things went wrong. 

It would have been better to send the ballots instead of applications, but that would have made life too easy. Who wants that? [sarcasm]

The secretary of state (SOS) mailed 323,000 applications to incorrect addresses. Oops. Delays. Confusion galore.

3,300 VBM Applications, including 2,000 in Fulton County, were never sent to voters because election officials entered them into computer systems incorrectly. More delays and confusion. 

Applications were printed with the wrong address for returning them. In Troup County, the return address on the preprinted application listed the post office box number as the street number. In Dawson County, the absentee ballot request form instructed the voter to return the request to a Decatur County email addressIn Troup and Dawson Counties, the errors impacted about 60,000 voters

Emailed applications had to be forwarded to the correct county. Tens of thousands. Can you imagine doing that without accidentally deleting or losing applications?  Me neither.

Counties were short-staffed, backlogged, and unable to process all the applications. One Fulton County election staffer died of Covid-19 and another was sick with the virus and needed time off. At one point Fulton had a backlog of 25,000 applications.

As of Monday, June 1, 2020—eight days before the primary election day—84,000 Georgia voters hadn’t yet received their VBM ballots. Countless others received the wrong ballots.

One voter requested a Democratic absentee ballot in early April. She received a Republican ballot. Another voter received a ballot even though he had already voted. Another received another person’s ballot. (These last two I know of it personally.)

Large numbers of voters who would have voted by mail couldn’t because of colossal screwups.

If this were a Shakespearean play, it would be called A Tragedy of Errors. 

There’s more.

Polling places were woefully understaffed. Cobb County:  About 400 poll workers said they were unwilling to staff the primaryForsyth County was down about half of its 300 poll workers trained for the election

Statewide, 10% of polling places were relocated since the onset of the pandemic. In the greater metro Atlanta area, there were 80 fewer places to vote. 

As a result, 16,000 active registered voters from five Fulton County precincts were assigned a single polling place.

When the errors most heavily impacted Fulton County (a Democratic stronghold with a large African American population) the Republican Secretary of State blamed Fulton County for the “boneheaded” decision to process paper applications before emailed applications.

If you wonder how processing applications in a different order created 8-hour lines, well, me too. I guess screwing up and then calling other people names is a feature of the modern Republican Party.

I haven’t even gotten started with problems with the machines and polling places on election day.

If you live in Georgia and can do it, consider volunteering to work in a polling place in November. Here’s the information. They need good people working the polling places. Actually, no matter where you live, please consider volunteering to help with the November election. (Click here for ideas.) We are likely to see record turnout in November, which means systems may be overwhelmed.

How about this for a conspiracy theory: Privileged people who get their jobs because they’re privileged don’t have to be competent. They’ve never had to be competent.

Of course, the Democrats are on it. Whaddya think we’ve been doing? goofing off? The Georgia Democrats already filed a lawsuit to extend the time for voters to cure absentee / provisional ballots. Here’s a screen shot of the first page:

Oh, and the importance of Georgia (and part of the reason I decided to do my volunteer work in Georgia this year):

Ordinarily, I find that when people say ‘serious question,’ they’re trolling, but Trump and the GOP have been hammering the “Vote by mail fraud” drum so long, I think this is a serious question:

Ballots are not sent to everyone. They are sent to registered voters at their addresses. When ballots are received, signatures are checked, just like at polling places. States that are organized barcode the ballots. One per person. One safety valve is any person with a VBM ballot can show up at the polling place, void out their VBM ballot and vote. This happened a lot when people had already voted in the primaries and their candidate dropped out after they voted.

So if you don’t get your ballot for some reason, you show up at a polling place (early voting or election day) and you void it out, or request another, and the first is voided. Organized, well-run states track ballots the way packages can be tracked. Don’t believe the voter fraud myths. It’s very hard to steal a ballot.

On the other hand, it’s easy to make a few office errors and prevent thousands of people from voting. If there’s an easy way to do something and a super hard way, people usually pick the easy way.

And some craziness from Ted Cruz

Republicans on Twitter are fond of pointing out that Democrats were the party of slavery, the Confederacy, and the KKK. Here’s Ted Cruz repeating the talking point:

This is more than deliberate ignorance of history. Everyone knows the Democrats (once the party of the Confederacy) and Republicans changed platforms.

It’s also a “both sides are racist” argument intended to deflect blame.

Really, what Ted Cruz is saying is this: Yes, the Republicans are racists. But so are the Democrats.

Bothsidesism is a propaganda technique. It holds that nobody has any principles, or, as Ted Cruz wants to say, “both parties are racists.”

If both parties are racists (if nobody has principles) then it’s all about grabbing power. You know you’re dealing with a person who doesn’t believe fairness is possible—and thus embraces a hierarchical worldview—when they say something like “we’re racists, but so are you.”

If you missed my post on hierarchy v. fairness (a helpful paradigm for understanding the differences between the parties) it’s here.

Ted Cruz is also distorting history, of course, and failing to explain why the KKK are now Republicans. 

Because Ted Cruz is using a propaganda technique (bothsidesism) as well as distorting history, setting him straight about the history won’t do any good. He doesn’t care about history or facts. He cares about power. 

That’s why he’s willing to distort facts. The leadership principle rejects facts and science and says the Leader Knows All. Democracy (rule of law) on the other hand, depends on facts. Ted Cruz doesn’t like democracy because he knows his views are minority views.

So he lies, distorts history, and engages in propaganda as a way of undermining truth and rule of law and holding on to power. That’s why the Republicans cheat. They don’t think anyone has principles. If all people lie and cheat, the winner cheats best. It’s about “winning.

For an explanation of how the two parties switched platforms, see this post.


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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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