Two Democrats who back new federal legislation to protect voting rights and civil rights won their Jan. 5 runoff races in Georgia.
The twin victories put Democrats in control of the legislative agenda when Joe Biden becomes president Jan. 20.
Republican Senators lost to an African-American preacher who gives sermons in the church where Martin Luther King Jr. once stood, and a 33-year-old Jewish man who worked for civil rights icon John Lewis.
The vote was close in both races. As of Wednesday evening, The Washington Post reported that Rev. Raphael Warnock defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler by 73,000 votes, out of more than 4.4 million votes cast; Jon Ossoff ousted Sen. David Purdue by about 35,000 votes.
Every vote counted and needed to be counted accurately in our democratic form of government.
But an exit poll released by NBC News showed that voters in the Jan. 5 runoff races had less confidence in the accuracy of the vote count than people who voted in the November General Election.
The decline in confidence occurred after President Trump, who lost in November, kept charging that the election was “rigged” and “stolen” from him.
Hours after both Peach State Democrats upset their GOP opponents, attention shifted to Washington, D.C. Both houses of Congress were meeting to confirm Biden’s win. But numerous members of the House, joined by 13 Republican Senators, including a just-defeated Georgia Senator, started challenging the Electoral College votes in states that gave Biden his victory.
The debate over the disputed votes was put on hold when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, forcing elected leaders to hide or shelter in place. Hours went by before order was restored, but not before police fired tear gas and shot dead a woman.
The riot, the insurrection, the coup attempt erupted two months after President Trump started claiming, without proof, that vote counts in some states were corrupted. This is why loyal Republican legislators tried to overturn the Electoral College votes that Biden won in those states.
Throwing out those Electoral College votes, and giving them to Trump, would have handed him a second four-year term as president.
This extreme series of anti-democratic actions demonstrate why it is important for us to hold elections that we can trust. We can trust our elections more if we have more transparency and more eyes on the vote counts in the states.
Democracy Counts, a hi-tech startup organization based in San Diego, shared its Actual Vote app for free with citizen auditors in Florida last year. The app lets auditors record the polling tapes that are made public at polling stations at the end of voting. Citizens Audit of Broward used the Actual Vote app in three elections in Broward County, the second-most populous county in the state.
Citizen auditors then compared the vote count from the polling tapes with the vote count government officials ultimately made public.
Documenting potential differences in a vote count is important if advocates go to court to seek a judicial remedy, argues Dan Wolf, a Harvard-trained attorney and founder and CEO of Democracy Counts.
So, the Actual Vote app headed a state to the north in time for some Georgia citizens to record poll tapes after voting ended on Jan 5. Leaders of the Georgia Democratic Party did not respond to my request for confirmation or denial that one of the candidates in the runoff elections deployed Actual Vote.
Some Georgians also used a second election watchdog app, Wanna Vote. Democracy Counts calls it a parallel vote count that also lets people document instances of voter suppression.
For context, Democracy Counts and Citizens Audit of Broward are just getting started. The groups are not well-known. Nonprofit organizations, voters and political parties may have a natural resistance to the effort to create a parallel vote count, or the specific way Democracy Counts seeks to do it. However, they have no such resistance to using Actual Vote to preserve polling tapes.
This is what the founder and director of Scrutineers.org thinks about the potential the Actual Vote app affords Americans. Scrutineers.org is an online community where voter protection, election security and transparency advocates meet. She made her remarks via email as police were quelling the riot at our nation’s Capitol.
“We have a lot of work to rebuild voter confidence in our election systems,” says Emily Levy. “That work will necessarily require complete transparency of our voting and vote-counting processes from this day forward. We can no longer permit the secret processes or corporate claims of proprietary rights over the mechanisms of our democracy that are partly responsible for the chaos following this year’s elections.”
Carroll Robinson agrees. He is a Texas attorney and Democracy Counts board member.
He says, in an email as the MAGA coup attempt unfolded, “We need organizations like Democracy Counts because we need people dedicated to the long-term protection of democracy by protecting our right to vote and the integrity of our election system by using common sense innovation.”