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Georgia looks to drop electronic voting machines in favor of paper ballots

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A unique effort is underway in Georgia to safeguard elections by taking voting machines back to the future.

“The most secure elections in the world are conducted with a piece of paper and a pencil,” said Georgia State Rep. Scot Turner. “It allows you to continue into the future to verify the result.”

Turner has proposed a bill that would retire Georgia’s electronic touch-screen voting machines and switch to paper ballots that voters would fill out and then be counted by optical scan machines. The technology has been in use for decades to score standardized tests for grade-school students.

Voting machines are set up for people to cast their ballots during voting in the 2016 presidential election at Manuel J. Cortez Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S November 8, 2016.  REUTERS/David Becker - HT1ECB81RBICM

Georgia’s top election official, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, also a Republican, said the electronic voting machines currently in use in Georgia are accurate and efficient and replacing them with paper would be a step backward.

 (REUTERS)

“You can try and hack these machines all day long,” Turner said. “But that piece of paper that you can touch and feel and look at is going to give the voter the confidence that the election is actually being recorded the way it should have been.”

But Georgia’s top election official, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, also a Republican, said the electronic voting machines currently in use in Georgia are accurate and efficient and replacing them with paper would be a step backward.

“The fraud we see in Georgia is with paper ballots,” Kemp said. “So, I would be very careful going back to the old days of the hanging chad.”

Hanging chad is a reference to incompletely punched card ballots in Florida that put the outcome of the 2000 presidential race in limbo for 36 days. The delay prompted calls nationwide for upgrades in voting technology.

Election workers hand check ballots for "hanging", "pregnant" or "dimpled" chads at the Broward County Emergency Operations Center, November 18, 2000. Republican George W. Bush was pleased that overseas absentee ballots had widened his lead in Florida and hoped the dispute over the state's presidential vote would be resolved soon, his campaign said on Saturday.

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Hanging chads are incompletely punched card ballots in Florida that put the outcome of the 2000 presidential race in limbo for 36 days. The delay prompted calls nationwide for upgrades in voting technology.

 (AP)

Georgia went to direct-recording electronic voting machines (DREs). Voters select candidates on a touch-screen computer, which records their choices on an electronic ballot.

Georgia is one of five states still using DREs statewide without a physical paper trail backup. A sixth state, Nevada, uses DREs with a paper trail statewide.

The rest of the nation uses a patchwork of voting systems that vary from state to state and, often, countsy to county.

“I don’t know that there needs to be one specific way to cast a ballot and record a vote, but there are a number of best practices,” said Jeh Johnson, who served as director of Homeland Security during the Obama administration.

Johnson said what’s crucial is redundancy — having a backup system for recounting votes if there’s a technical glitch or deliberate meddling.

paper ballot

Paper ballots have been phased out in much of the country but a proposed bill in Georgia would bring it back.

“The cyber threat to our country is going to get worse before it gets better,” Johnson said. “Bad cyber actors — whether they’re nation states, cyber criminals, hacktivists, those who engage in ransomware — are increasingly aggressive, tenacious and ingenious.”

Last year, DHS declared America’s election systems as “critical infrastructure” — underscoring the importance of protecting how the nation conducts democracy. Solutions are likely to vary from region to region, just as voting technology varies. And experts say that diversity is part of the protection.

Fox News producer David Lewkowict contributed to this report.

Jonathan Serrie joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in April 1999 and currently serves as a correspondent based in the Atlanta bureau.

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Don't need EU! Brexit finance deal DEAD as Frost blasts Brussels demands – UK to thrive

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LORD FROST hinted chances of a Brexit finances deal have evaporated as he addressed a think tank on Thursday night.

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The Biden administration says it will evacuate Afghans who worked with U.S. troops

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration plans to evacuate at least some of the Afghans who worked with the U.S. military and who face the threat of retribution from the Taliban before the U.S. withdrawal’s official completion date of Sept. 11, senior administration officials said Thursday.

The White House had previously declined to endorse the idea but President Joe Biden gave the green light to evacuation plans on Thursday, telling reporters, “Those who helped us are not going to be left behind.”

The decision follows an internal debate and urgent appeals in recent weeks from lawmakers from both parties, veterans of the war in Afghanistan, the Afghans who risked their lives to support U.S. soldiers, and from diplomats in America’s longest war.

Asked about the fate of Afghans who worked as interpreters or in other jobs, Biden said: “We’ve already begun the process” of helping the Afghan partners.

Asked which country they would be relocated to, the president said he didn’t know and mentioned he would be meeting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House on Friday.

An unspecified number of Afghans who worked as interpreters for the U.S. government and who applied for a visa will be moved to a third country, where their paperwork will be reviewed, senior administration officials said.

It remained unclear how many Afghans would be evacuated, which third country would accept them and when the operation would begin.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby indicated the relocation might involve civilian aircraft and not military planes. An evacuation of 6,600 Iraqi Kurds to Guam in 1996-97 also used chartered, civilian planes.

To help Afghans facing threats from the Taliban due to their work for U.S. forces, Congress created the special immigrant visa program. But the SIV program has been hampered by bureaucratic delays and advocates say Afghan partners are in grave danger from the Taliban while they wait for their applications to be processed.

“Although we have surged resources and sped up SIV processing times significantly, we recognize that some of these interpreters and translators have been in the process, in some cases for years, and are still waiting to receive their visas,” a senior administration official said.

“We have identified a group of SIV applicants who have served as interpreters and translators to be relocated to another location outside of Afghanistan before we complete our military drawdown by September, in order to complete the visa application process,” the official said.

The U.S. withdrawal is likely to be effectively complete next month, according to officials.

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter said the evacuees would come from the 18,000 Afghans already in the Special Immigrant Visa pipeline. She declined to say which countries they would be evacuated to but said the relocation would be done in “full compliance with all applicable laws, as well as in full coordination with Congress.”

The administration is identifying Afghans who worked with the U.S. government to be relocated to a third country to allow the Afghans to “safely complete” the remainder of the visa application process, she said.

The senior administration official left open the possibility that evacuations might have to be expanded. “We are planning for all contingencies, so that we are prepared for all scenarios. Should it become necessary, we will consider additional relocation or evacuation options,” the official said.

Lawmakers, veterans groups and rights organizations welcomed the announcement.

Chris Purdy, project manager of the Veterans for American Ideals program at Human Rights First, said the Biden administration should fly the Afghans to the U.S. territory of Guam, where the governor already has said the Afghans would be welcome.

“This is America’s responsibility, we don’t need to outsource to another country,” he said.

Purdy added that the administration should “release their plan to ensure that we get as many people out as possible.”

Congressional aides from both parties said the White House had informed lawmakers of the decision to proceed with an evacuation and that some officials in the administration favored flying the Afghan partners to Guam.

Visa applicants in Guam would be accorded more rights than in a third country, and it would be more difficult to deport them back to Afghanistan from U.S. territory, rights advocates said.

Advocates have accused the Biden administration of moving far too slowly to protect the tens of thousands of Afghans whose lives are in mortal danger because of their association with the U.S. and Western organizations.

Veterans and refugee organizations said they have been inundated with pleas for help from former interpreters.

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Pelosi announces select committee to investigate Jan. 6 Capitol riot

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that the House will establish a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

“This morning, with great solemnity and sadness, I am announcing the House will be establishing a select committee on the January 6th insurrection,” Pelosi said at a news conference.

Last month, Senate Republicans blocked House-passed legislation to establish a bipartisan commission to probe the attack. That legislation failed a key procedural hurdle after 54 senators voted in favor of it, short of the needed 60 votes.

That bill passed the House last month by a 252-175 vote, with 35 Republicans voting in favor of it. It was the product of negotiations between House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., the ranking member of the committee.

While Democrats have long pushed for an investigation akin to the 9/11 commission, many Republicans have argued it would become an overly political process that could damage them in next year’s elections without information that goes beyond what inquiries by federal law enforcement will uncover.

On Thursday, Pelosi, D-Calif., said there is no timeline for the committee to release findings and she is not yet announcing its composition or leadership.

“January 6th was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history,” Pelosi said. “It is imperative that we establish the truth of that day and ensure an attack of that kind cannot happen, and that we root out the causes of it all. The select committee will investigate and report on the facts and the causes of the attack” and report recommendations.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., signaled this month that he would seek to “force the Senate to vote” again on the commission.

Pelosi said Thursday she sees the establishment of this committee “as complementary, not instead of” the bipartisan commission passed in the House, adding she is hopeful that that still comes to pass.

“The select committee is about our democracy, and about ensuring that the Capitol dome remains a symbol of freedom, about preserving America’s role as an emblem of resilience, determination and hope,” Pelosi said. “That is our purpose. That is what the select committee will be about, and that is about seeking and finding the truth.”

“It is clear that the Republicans are afraid of the truth,” she added.

Olivia Olander contributed.

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