Earlier this month, the Georgia House Appropriations Committee convened to review budgets for the Fiscal Year 2025. During the hearing, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger began his plea for millions of dollars more for the voting machines and election systems that Georgia tax-payers just purchased for $107 million in 2019.
Raffensperger began his plea for the Elections Division funding by claiming, “Since day 1, election security has been my top priority and will continue to be so,” and then he referred to Georgia’s system as “battle-tested.” He then asserts that Georgia is a “national leader in elections” because they were the first state to have implemented “the trifecta of automatic voter registration, at least 17 days of early voting, which have been called the ‘Gold Standard’, and ‘no excuse’ absentee voting.”
None of those items he listed should be considered beneficial to “election security.”
Raffensperger went on to request $32.3 million for FY25, with nearly two-thirds of the request “designed to address election security issues” for a total of $20.2 million. He also requested $6 million to replace the “aging voting machine power supplies” on the less than five-year-old systems (which was also requested last year) as well as $4,125,000 for QR Code Readers. Georgia’s BMDs currently print the voter’s intent in a non-human-verifiable QR Code on the physical paper ballot.
When the funding request was broken down further, it amounted to the following:
- Elections Software Reinstall – $10,432,696
- Security and Voter Upgrades – $11,839,160
- Investigations – $487,160
- Corporations – $3,275,000
- Elections Personnel Needs – $2,686,000
- Voter Contact/List Maintenance – $3,195,000
- Professional Licensing Boards – $397,200
Raffensperger specifies that the “Software Reinstall” applies to all 159 counties and involves 34,000 ballot marking devices (BMDs) and almost 3,800 ballot scanners.
During questioning, Senator Max Burns brought up the recent roll-out of Garvis Poll Pads and a discussion at a November committee meeting regarding the poll pads, which Raffensperger was not in attendance. Sen. Burns mentioned that they had requested the amount spent on the Garvis Poll Pads and where that money was allotted from. Raffensperger did not know the total at that time but mentioned the funding was from “bond funds redirected.”
Raffensperger deployed Garvis Poll Pads in municipal elections to assist with voter check in. The poll pads are connected to the internet and reliable sources say they are easily hackable.
The Georgia Legislature didn’t approve the millions to pay for… pic.twitter.com/vzo20iz1Om
— Debbie Dooley (@Crimsontider) December 28, 2023
When asked by Senator Burns about the effectiveness of the poll pads, Raffensperger responded that “overall, it went very well” with “a few localized issues.” He offered no substantive description of or resolution to any of those issues, but instead cited a “checklist” that they’re working on.
Next, Senator Brandon Beach asked about the “nine vulnerabilities” in the Halderman Report and Raffensperger’s claim that it would cost $32.5 million to “fix” those vulnerabilities. Sen. Beach asked if the newly-presented $10 million would adequately fix the machines. Raffensperger claimed the new request was “whittled down” and may be “sharpened” even further.
Raffensperger then doubled down that the implementation of these “fixes” won’t be able to be performed until after the 2024 election, even if more money was allocated, as Sen. Beach suggested. The SOS claimed that it would take 97,000 man-hours to update the previously-mentioned 34,000 BMDs, or approximately 2.9 hours per BMD.
In J Alex Halderman’s 2021 report that was recently unsealed by Judge Amy Totenberg in the Curling v. Raffensperger case, Halderman claims:
…in reviewing the processes it will require an update of the nearly 45,000 pieces of voting equipment, along with the subsequent acceptance testing. This process will take tens of thousands of manhours. Therefore, the statewide move to 5.17 will occur following the 2024 election cycle. This will allow the state and counties to focus on executing municipal elections and running the Presidential cycle. It also allows the state to put together a thoughtful, thorough plan to roll out the latest software.
Specifically regarding the “patch” of the BMDs, he states:
Some of the critical vulnerabilities I discovered can be at least partially mitigated through changes to the ICX’s software, and I encourage Dominion and the State of Georgia to move as quickly as possible to remedy them. However, merely patching these specific problems is unlikely to make the ICX substantially more secure. I did not have the resources to find all possible exploitable security bugs in the ICX software. Once I found one that satisfied a particular adversarial objective, I usually turned to investigating other aspects of the system. It is very likely that there are other, equally critical flaws in the ICX that are yet to be discovered. Fully defending it will require discovering and mitigating them all, but attackers would only have to find one.
And relating to the replacement of the previous system, Halderman states:
The ICX BMDs can be compromised to the same extent and as or more easily than the AccuVote TS and TS-X DREs they replaced. Both systems have similar weaknesses, including readily bypassed user authentication and software validation, and susceptibility to malware that spreads from a central point to machines throughout a jurisdiction. Yet with the BMD, these vulnerabilities tend to be even easier to exploit than on the DRE system, since the ICX uses more modern and modular technology that is simpler to investigate and modify.
In addition to the initial cost of $107,000,000, the Georgia Secretary of State is now requesting tens of millions more for security upgrades in part for a system that still won’t be secure and, in fact, is less secure than the old system it replaced, as per the Halderman Report.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger must think Georgians enjoy throwing massive sums of their hard-earned taxpayer dollars into the bottomless pit of their vulnerable electronic voting machines.