Kurt Kastorf Testifies for Fair Fight on Election Reform Bill
On behalf of Fair Fight, Kurt Kastorf appeared before the Georgia Senate to discuss H.B. 316, an election reform bill that also commits Georgia to a $150,000,000 purchase of new voting machines that have several of the same key flaws as existing machines. His remarks are below:
My name is Kurt Kastorf of Atlanta. I am an attorney at The Summerville Firm, where I work on complex Constitutional, appellate, and trial issues. In addition to my time spent in private practice, I have worked at the United States Department of Justice, the Supreme Court of Georgia, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
I speak today on behalf of Fair Fight as part of the organization’s legal team. I argued and obtained emergency relief to protect Georgia voters in two Federal lawsuits following the 2018 election, and I am a counsel of record in Fair Fight’s current lawsuit against the Secretary of State.
House Bill 316 in a tacit acknowledgement that the criticisms of Georgia’s electoral system raised by Fair Fight and Stacey Abrams are valid. By proposing a solution to a problem, House Bill 316 admits we have a problem. And that concession is appropriate, because, as outlined in Fair Fight’s recently-filed amended complaint, and evidenced by hundreds of affidavits of Georgia voters, there are serious and unconstitutional flaws in Georgia’s elections process.
Unfortunately, House Bill 316 falls far short of addressing those Constitutional violations.
House Bill 316 would maintain voter purges, wrongfully removing voters from the rolls.
It increases the number of voters per voting booth, in the immediate aftermath of an election that saw hours long lines, particularly at polling places in heavily minority areas.
It does not address serious inaccuracies in the registration system, or in absentee balloting. Nor does it ensure adequate resources for polling places. Or provide election officials with clear guidance on handling provisional ballots.
And then there is House Bill 316’s approach to replacing Georgia’s bad and outdated voting machines. Federal judge Amy Totenberg wrote that state election officials “buried their heads in the sand” about the vulnerabilities of Georgia’s election system. This bill does the same. House Bill 316 proposes that we adopt new voting machines that every cybersecurity expert who has testified before this legislature and before the SAFE Commission has made clear are vulnerable to hacking. Hackers can easily change or eliminate votes.
Every time I have fought to expand the right to vote, I have heard the rejoinder that we cannot do so, because we need to protect against election fraud. Let’s be clear that the risk of serious fraud from hackers exploiting our voting machines is orders of magnitude greater than the risk posed by isolated, undocumented, claims of individual fraud.
To those legislators who have a sincere desire to safeguard our election system: by voting for HB 316 in its current form, you are abdicating the best opportunity you will have in your legislative career to ensure the integrity of our elections.
Meanwhile, to those legislators who have simply used the bogeyman of voter fraud to fight off attempts to make it easier for Georgians to participate in democracy, your vote for HB 316 will lay your hypocrisy bare.
House Bill 316 also does nothing to address vote slippage, a very real problem affecting voters of all political stripes in which a machine records a vote for the wrong candidate. The bill uses a barcode to mark the vote, and there is no way for a voter or elections official to look at that barcode and know how the vote will be recorded. If you can’t read it, you can’t audit it.
Meanwhile, the bill exposes Georgia to a possible political scandal that ought concern legislators, voters, and Georgia’s business community. The bill sets up an RFP process in which the same company potentially responsible for statistically-anomalous undervoting in the 2018 Lieutenant Governor’s race, ES&S, could be rewarded for its failures with a $150 million contract from Georgia taxpayers. ES&S has been accused of pay-for-play schemes across the county. And, as the Pennsylvania State Auditor warned, “It it’s happening here, it must be happening elsewhere.” It is unsurprising, then, that ES&S has employed one of Governor Kemp’s top staffers as its lobbyist. The press will be on this story. Georgia was in the national and international news for all the wrong reasons last November, and history is at risk of repeating itself.
Fair Fight applauds the General Assembly for recognizing that Georgia has a problem. But House Bill 316 is not the answer. It would be bad for Georgia.