To solve a modern threat to American elections,
look to old-fashioned paper ballots.
From Lt Col Tony Shaffer (ret)
Acting President, The London Center,
Adviser to the 2020 campaign of Donald Trump.
To the Georgia Senate and House of Representatives
On the morning of Election Day in 2016, President Trump made a clear statement on a vital issue for our nation’s civic life. Speaking to Fox News, he wholeheartedly endorsed paper ballots for American voting. The President said: “There’s something really nice about the old paper ballot system… You don’t worry about hacking.”
While seventy percent of Americans use a printed paper ballot and pen to cast their votes —because of unscrupulous lobbying efforts from the companies that sell electronic voting systems—Georgia may purchase an insecure, non-verifiable, computerized system called a Ballot Marking Device (BMD)—a vulnerable touch screen voting machine that prints a paper "summary" of a real ballot, but has a bar code which is used for auditing, a code that voters cannot read. This is a false solution: As a cyber operations expert who worked for 30 years in the intelligence field, I can state without reservation that these BMD electronic systems can be easily hacked, just as was the case with the insecure, paperless DREs Georgia used before. Legislators should realize that HB 316 would lock in this costly and insecure approach.
While the Georgia Secretary of State's office has argued that this BMD proposal would be cheaper than the paper ballot alternative, his office has put out a misleading analysis which would have Georgians believe that a simple paper ballot and pen would cost taxpayers more than a $3,000 computerized ballot printer in each voting booth. He misjudges the intelligence of Georgia’s taxpayers, who will eventually realize that they are paying over a hundred and fifty million dollars needlessly for this boondoggle. They will also pay millions more for licensing, programming, storing and transporting these machines every election, plus $50 million for 20 years of bond interest for their purchase, this while the BMDs only have a ten- year shelf life.
President Trump was right: We should opt for paper ballots to ensure that we don’t have to worry about hacking. In this case, the simple solution is the most effective. As a respected member of the cybersecurity community and the Republican Party, I cannot support HB316.
I wholeheartedly recommend hand-marked paper ballots, rigorous operational protocols, and post-election audits for the voters of Georgia. Republicans in Georgia need to consider the President’s words.
Tony Shaffer is a retired senior intelligence operations officer who served with the United States Army in Cyber operations and is Acting President of the London Center for Policy Research