An investigation into voter suppression in Georgia’s 2018 elections revealed a massive undervote in the state’s lieutenant governor race that has thrown the election in doubt.
The House Oversight Committee is investigating voter suppression allegations that plagued Georgia’s gubernatorial election between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. A trove of more than 15,000 pages of documents turned over to the committee and obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed another issue: there was an unexplained drop-off in the votes cast in the lieutenant governor race.
Though it’s common for fewer people to vote in down-ballot races, 159,000 fewer people voted for lieutenant governor than voted for governor while other down-ballot races had about 80,000 more votes each. Nearly 70,000 more people voted for the state’s agricultural commissioner.
The Coalition for Good Governance, an election security group filed a lawsuit to challenge the election, which is now pending before the state’s supreme court.
Probe reveals “1 in 1 million anomaly”:
The documents submitted in the investigation and lawsuit found that there were serious irregularities. In one case, in Kemp’s home precinct, a voting machine recorded Republicans as winning all of the races even though the other six machines in the precinct all showed Democrats winning by roughly the same margin.
A statistician’s analysis cited in the lawsuit said the “odds of an anomaly that large are less than 1 in 1 million,” the Journal-Constitution reported.
‘Extreme’ irregularities in black areas:
The documents showed a decline in votes for lieutenant governor on electronic voting machines in 101 of the state’s 159 counties, even though paper absentee ballots did not reflect a significant drop-off.
The data-tracking firm TargetSmart found that the drop off “grew even more extreme in precincts with large African American populations,” according to the Journal-Consitution.
“I’ve never seen a drop-off pattern like this, ever,” TargetSmart data analyst Chris Brill told the outlet.
Republican state officials have blocked investigations into the matter, arguing that voter interest was simply lower in the lieutenant governor race. But a report from the Coalition for Good Governance says that cannot be the case.
“The rates of touchscreen machine–reported undervotes in such precincts in the Lt. Governor contest are far greater than the undervote rates in non–African American neighborhoods regardless of whether those neighborhoods lean Democratic or Republican,” the report said. “The undervote problem did not happen at the same exaggerated levels in many primarily White neighborhoods that overwhelmingly voted for Stacey Abrams and other Democrats, rebutting the argument that the difference can be explained by party-driven voter behavior.”
Brill said in a court affidavit that the results are “extremely suspect and irregular and cast a serious doubt over the accuracy of the final vote and the certified outcome of the lieutenant governor’s contest,” adding that he “finds no reasonable, plausible explanation other than machine malfunction.”
“Based on my analysis, described above, and my knowledge of Georgia’s DRE voting system used in the November 6, 2018 election,” added Berkeley statistician Philip Stark in another affidavit, “it is my opinion that the certified results of the lieutenant governor’s race are in substantial doubt.”