Georgia’s Digital Delusions

In my local pub (when Boris Johnson permits one to attend), the march of progress continues its gloriously pointless pace. 

Rather than perform the rigmarole of walking up to the bar and telling blood and flesh you’d like an Old Fashioned, one can now avoid this outmoded nonsense. 

Indeed, this advancement took place before the specter of the Ambitious Flu, and social distancing. One can now shuffle through the pub doors, plant oneself into a quiet corner, pull out one’s iPhone, and order a drink through the app.

Yes, just a few taps of the thumb, and the drink arrives at one’s table without a word muttered. 

Of course, a human being still mixes the drink. And still carries it over to the table. 

Apparently, this is evidence of the unrelenting technological progression of enlightened beings. For decades, was ordering a drink in a bar akin to hopscotching across a minefield? Has technology saved us from the horrible inclemency of life?

If anything, this pointless sanitization of everyday humanity is the technological vanity of a species without cultural achievement since the turn of the century. 

Some things work fine without a touchscreen—ordering an Old Fashioned is one of them. And voting for a president or prime minister is another. 

Perhaps, we British apply the digital delusion to a drink, but when it comes to elections, we are the oldest of old-school. 

Yes, we shuffle into a voting station, draw a musty curtain, mark with a pencil an “X” on to a piece of paper, and put that paper into a box. Those ballots are then shipped to other human beings, who, watched by yet more human beings, count the ballots by hand. 

This system has worked for centuries, and still works. We know the winner of our elections by the early hours of the next morning. 

There’s little disputation. No reasonable rancor. There’s no talk of hacked voting machines, or outdated software. No suspicious injections of votes. No dissolution of seemingly unassailable leads. It’s all rather staid. 

And it has its advantages. Half the nation is not then convinced the election was stolen from them. All of this idyll made possible by the communion of graphite pencil, paper ballot, human eye. 

It is nearly three weeks after the U.S. presidential election and we have no official winner. Lawsuits and legal wrangling and recounts and rancor reign.  

In Georgia, Joe Biden’s claimed win is the slimmest of margins—12,670 votes. The Trump campaign last week insisted fresh legal disputes alleging voter fraud in that state are forthcoming. Attorney Sidney Powell reportedly will file a lawsuit in the Peach State on Wednesday.  

That’s despite Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state, insisting (following a hand recount) that the “numbers don’t lie” and that an audit of Georgia’s voting machines found no foul play. 

Whether any of the Trump campaign’s claims of fraud can be proven remains to be seen. And it is too late anyway. For half the population, this election is tainted beyond rescue, and any Joe Biden presidency will be met with rolled eyes and an asterisk. 

Biden’s wins are so numerically fragile, in any event, that any sober mind could suspect that the mounting claims of statistical irregularities, fraud, or failed-state skullduggery could have clinched the election in his favor. 

Sometimes, simple is best. Marking a paper ballot and putting it into a box is best, as activists in Georgia tried in vain to demonstrate. 

Back in October, a federal judge in Georgia “expressed serious concerns” about Georgia’s new election system yet rejected a push to abandon its touchscreen voting machines in favor of hand-marked paper ballots. 

A lawsuit filed by election integrity activists expressed grave concerns with Georgia’s new $100 million Dominion Voting System. That new system uses touchscreen voting machines (known as ballot-marking devices) to print out a barcoded paper ballot which is then read by a scanner. 

The activists claimed this system “presents serious system security vulnerability and operational issues,” and fought for the old-fashioned hand-marked paper ballots in remedy. They also demonstrated that problems during pilot elections last year, and in Georgia’s June primary and August run-off elections, “caused severe breakdowns at the polls.” 

Yet, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg rejected the request, despite sharing some of the activists’ concerns, writing: “The Court’s Order has delved deep into the true risks posed by the new BMD voting system as well as its manner of implementation,” she said. “These risks are neither hypothetical nor remote under the current circumstances.”

But such problems effectively were left to chance. Totenberg averred: “Implementation of such a sudden systemic change under these circumstances cannot but cause voter confusion and some real measure of electoral disruption.” 

She then warned that “the vital issues identified in this case will not disappear or be appropriately addressed without focused State attention, resources, ongoing serious evaluation by independent cybersecurity experts, and open-mindedness.”

Marilyn Marks, executive director of the nonpartisan Coalition for Good Governance, a plaintiff in the suit, told the Associated Press: “We are deeply disappointed that Georgia voters will be voting in this important election on unreliable touchscreen machines that produce results that cannot be audited.”

The Coalition’s work is not that of some paranoid conspiracy theorists. Back when the Russia collusion hoax was still a thing, Rachel Maddow praised its work. 

On January 5, Georgia will decide the form and future of a Joe Biden presidency. 

With the control of the Senate dangling above, Reverend Raphael Warnock and Democrat Jon Ossoff take on Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. 

Winning both seats would hand Democrats a tie-break control of the Senate, and Joe Biden power to enact the most progressive presidential agenda since George McGovern in 1972. 

Losing either would likely mean a ceremonial presidency kept in check by Mitch McConnell. 

Of course, the time between now and then will be a repeat of the presidential campaign—massaged polls, celebrity enjoinments to “do the right thing,” and the billionaires and Big Tech doing everything they can to thumb the scale in the name of “democracy.” 

Perhaps, hand-marked paper ballots would swerve the inevitable rancor that’ll surely follow January’s elections. Perhaps, it’ll be the Democrats’ turn to cry foul. 

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About Christopher Gage

Christopher Gage is a British political journalist and a founding member of the Gentlemen of the Swig. Subscribe to his Substack, "Oxford Sour."

Photo: Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images