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GA Sec. of State Obstructs Green Poll Watchers

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

Georgia Greens Asks Cathy Cox: What's there to hide? State interferes with Party's poll watchers at pilot project sites

Atlanta, GA - Under threat of litigation, first Cobb County and then Bibb County reversed its earlier decision and agreed Monday to issue credentials to poll watchers designated by the Georgia Green Party. Meanwhile the Party stood ready as late as 4:00 pm to bring legal action in Bibb Superior Court to compel Bibb County's compliance with the law in spite of intereference by the Secretary of State's office with their statutory "entitle(ment)" to "designate" pollwatchers in any precinct in the state.

John Sweet, attorney from Atlanta, represented the Party in communication with the Bibb County Attorney, and only resolved the issue on the verge of the closing of the office.

"We're only asking that this pilot project to provide for paper ballots in Georgia elections be conducted with the participation of Green pollwatchers," said Nan Garrett, CoChair of the Georgia Green Party, a 2002 candidate for Governor of Georgia, former magistrate judge and a graduate of Mercer University Law School. "Our Party has long been in the forefront to restore paper ballots to Georgia elections and public confidence in the legitimacy of their outcomes. We can only ask, what is it that Cathy Cox has to hide?"

Officers for the Georgia Green Party designated pollwatchers, as the Georgia Election Code entitles them to, in filings last week. On Friday, Party officers received phone communication from Elaine Carr, Election Superintendant from Bibb County and then from Sharon Dunn, her counterpart in Cobb County advising the Party that they did not intend to credential the Party's pollwatchers. In subsequent phone conversations, Ms. Garrett spoke with Kathy Rogers and Cliff Tatum of Secretary of State Cathy Cox's office who acknowledged that they had advised election superintendants for both Cobb and Bibb Counties that the Green Party was not entitled to designate pollwatchers.

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The Party is seeking to observe poll operations in the three precincts named by Bill Stephens' SB-500 (2006) as part of a pilot project testing printers on the proprietary Diebold Voting machines. Green Party officers joined others seeking to enjoin the use of the electronic voting machines and challenging the pilot project on Constitutional grounds. Georgia Green Party officers Adam Shapiro, CoChair, and Al Herman, Treasurer, are two among eight multi-partisan plaintiffs in litigation challenging the legality and constitutionality of the state's reliance on electronic voting.

"The Georgia Constitution does not require our faith in the intentions of corporations to which our election system has been illegally delegated," said Ms. Garrett. "I will reserve my faith for my Creator. From my public elections I want transparency and auditability for the tabulation of ballots, open access to the ballot, democratic funding of campaigns and proportional representation in the allocation of seats in representative bodies. I wish we could spend a small part of our government funds building a meaningful democracy here in Georgia as we do exporting abroad meaningless rhetoric at the point of a gun."

The SB-500 pilot project is fundamentally flawed in its violation of the secret ballot (by rolling the printed ballots up sequentially, so that citizens votes could be linked to individual voters after the fact) and its failure to fully educate voters of their opportunity to verify that the paper ballot accurately represents their intended votes.

House and Senate Conferees stripped from SB-500, a House Committee Amendment which would have required an in-precinct, public audit of paper ballots after the House rejected a Drenner Amendment which would have expanded the pilot project providing for the statewide introductions of paper ballots, satifying Georgians demand for transparency, and election accountability through meaningful audits.

"We're left with a test of the paper ballots which are not meant to be counted until after the results have been certified," said Garrett. "And, had the Secretary had her way, in which the minimal transparency provided by our system of pollwatching would have been denied a Green perspective and a Green voice, much as Georgia ballots have been for so long."

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The Georgia Green Party

Defenders of Democracy

Full details of the seven count complaint challenging the legality and constitutionality of Georgia's use of electronic voting machines are available on the website of the Voters Organized for Trusted Election Results in Georgia at:

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