Home / Opinion / Part 1‑Raffensperger and Kemp Cannot Be Trusted in 2024 Elections

Part 1‑Raffensperger and Kemp Cannot Be Trusted in 2024 Elections


County Election Boards Must Consider Verifiable Alternatives

JUL 9, 2023

Neither Raffensperger, Nor Kemp, Can Be Trusted

One would have to look long and hard to find an indi­vid­ual out­side Georgia’s prison sys­tem less trust­ed than Sec­re­tary of State Brad Raf­fensperg­er, with the pos­si­ble excep­tion of pre­vi­ous Sec­re­tary of State, now Geor­gia Gov­er­nor, Bri­an Kemp. Well before the 2020 elec­tion, Raf­fensperg­er and Kemp, togeth­er or sep­a­rate­ly, ini­ti­at­ed a course of events which would ulti­mate­ly destroy the cred­i­bil­i­ty of Georgia’s elec­tion sys­tem, each earn­ing a badge of per­son­al untrust­wor­thi­ness many times as events unfolded. 

As a result, until an hon­est, decen­tral­ized, ver­i­fi­able elec­tion sys­tem can be oper­at­ed in every vot­ing precinct in the state, the cit­i­zens of Geor­gia, by and large, will nev­er trust the results of statewide or local elec­tions again. Whether these two state offi­cials actu­al­ly con­spired to accom­plish the state of of affairs I describe, I can­not say. But the nec­es­sary ground­work to pro­ceed down a cer­tain intri­cate­ly-woven path of gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy-mak­ing, each sub­ject doing his part, hap­pen­stance doing the rest, thus bring­ing Geor­gia to these unen­vi­able cir­cum­stances, reveals that dis­tinct possibility. 

Below, and in sub­se­quent con­tri­bu­tions, I will recount the many ways these two indi­vid­u­als, Brad Raf­fensperg­er and Bri­an Kemp, entrust­ed by Geor­gians with the high­est respon­si­bil­i­ties, destroyed that trust, now leav­ing our coun­ty elec­tion boards to decide whether the result­ing cir­cum­stances trig­ger law­ful author­i­ty to aban­don Georgia’s uni­form, statewide bal­lot mark­ing device (BMD) vot­ing sys­tem, deem­ing it legal­ly “imprac­ti­ca­ble,” opt­ing instead in favor of sim­ple, decen­tral­ized, ver­i­fi­able paper bal­lot sys­tems in time for the 2024 elec­tion season. 

Roots of Present Circumstances Date Back to August 2014

Franklin Roo­sevelt, a man who should know, once remarked, “In pol­i­tics, noth­ing hap­pens by chance. If it hap­pens, you can bet it was planned that way.” At the very heart of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics is its elec­tion sys­tem. If the 32nd Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, elect­ed to that office four times, is cor­rect, we can expect that the state of affairs exist­ing today con­cern­ing Georgia’s belea­guered “Bal­lot Mark­ing Device” vot­ing sys­tem, did not hap­pen by chance. If Roo­sevelt was right, “you can bet it was planned that way.”

But prop­er plan­ning and exe­cu­tion takes time. Whether any of the fol­low­ing events were orches­trat­ed, as FDR might expect, is less impor­tant than the fact that these events occurred exact­ly as I present. And the fact that they occurred as doc­u­ment­ed below, has result­ed in a gen­er­al, intense dis­trust of the Geor­gia elec­tion sys­tem as it has come to be, first under for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Bri­an Kemp, now Georgia’s Gov­er­nor, and sub­se­quent­ly under the direct super­vi­sion of present Sec­re­tary of State Brad Raffensperger. 

The events to which I refer can be traced back to a seem­ing­ly innocu­ous, polit­i­cal ral­ly in Daw­sonville, Geor­gia, held at an oper­at­ing pump­kin farm in August of 2014. The events of that day, known to many as “Pump­kingate,” pro­vide a rec­og­niz­able frame of ref­er­ence for all that has occurred since, lead­ing to our cir­cum­stances today. 

Who was there?

9th Dis­trict Con­gress­man Doug Collins on far right at the pump­kin farm, act­ing as if noth­ing is hap­pen­ing (Pho­to By Bri­an K. Pritchard, FetchYourNews.Com)

Present that day to hold a fun-filled Repub­li­can cam­paign ral­ly at the pump­kin farm were sev­er­al notable politi­cians, includ­ing Gov­er­nor Nathan Deal, 9th Dis­trict US Con­gress­man Doug Collins, US Sen­ate can­di­date David Per­due and a not-so-well-known Geor­gia Attor­ney Gen­er­al by the name of Sam Olens. That was the fate­ful day cit­i­zen jour­nal­ist Nydia Tis­dale was forcibly arrest­ed by a Daw­son Coun­ty law-enforce­ment offi­cer. Her crime was video­ing the event’s speech­es once the offi­cer told her to stop. 

After the arrest, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Olens took the micro­phone, like­ly offend­ing the oth­er can­di­dates present that day, includ­ing Gov­er­nor Deal, who hav­ing wit­nessed the vio­lent treat­ment of Ms. Tis­dale close up, chose rather to ignore all that hap­pened direct­ly in front of them, and instead stand safe­ly silent. Despite the chance of offend­ing the oth­er pump­kin farm politi­cians there mere­ly to cam­paign, Olens cap­tured the crowd’s atten­tion, bold­ly pro­claim­ing the following, 

“Let me be pos­si­bly polit­i­cal­ly incor­rect here a sec­ond. If we stand for any­thing as a par­ty, what are we afraid of with the lady hav­ing a cam­era, film­ing us? What are we say­ing here that shouldn’t be on film? What mes­sage are we send­ing? That because it’s pri­vate prop­er­ty they shouldn’t be film­ing? What is the harm?”

AG Sam Olens with Nydia Tis­dale at the pump­kin farm in August 2014 (Pho­to By Bri­an K. Pritchard, FetchYourNews.Com)

Two years lat­er, halfway through his term, Olens would resign the office of Geor­gia Attor­ney Gen­er­al, hav­ing tak­en the job of Pres­i­dent of Ken­ne­saw State Uni­ver­si­ty in Cobb Coun­ty, lat­er cit­ing “grow­ing par­ti­san­ship and fric­tion between pol­i­tics, pol­i­cy and law” as his rea­son. He would nev­er elu­ci­date beyond agree­ing to that state­ment. Despite no par­tic­u­lar train­ing or back­ground in edu­ca­tion, the offer to land soft­ly at Ken­ne­saw after resign­ing his posi­tion as Attor­ney Gen­er­al arrived from the late Geor­gia Uni­ver­si­ty Sys­tem Chan­cel­lor, Hank Huck­a­by, elect­ed to that posi­tion by the Geor­gia Board of Regents, each board mem­ber, impor­tant­ly, appoint­ed by and serv­ing at the plea­sure of fel­low pump­kin farm politi­cian, Geor­gia Gov­er­nor Nathan Deal. I can­not say whether the gov­er­nor engi­neered Olens’ depar­ture. I can­not say that because nei­ther Olens nor Deal have said much or any­thing, respec­tive­ly, con­cern­ing the AG’s sud­den deci­sion to resign. All we know is what FDR tells us giv­en the appear­ance that Deal arranged a some­what lat­er­al trans­fer for Olens. Gov­er­nor Deal’s direct appointees on the Geor­gia Board of Regents pos­sessed author­i­ty over the new hire to head Ken­ne­saw. Giv­en Olens’ back­ground and train­ing, he was not the most qual­i­fied can­di­date for the post. There­fore, the Regents would nev­er have made such an out­ly­ing appoint­ment with­out Deal’s intervention. 

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Olens’ res­ig­na­tion in hand, the gov­er­nor wast­ed no time mak­ing his own out­ly­ing appoint­ment, tap­ping the Com­mis­sion­er of the Geor­gia Depart­ment of Eco­nom­ic Devel­op­ment, Christo­pher Carr, to fill the open AG seat. Deal’s appoint­ment of Carr was “out­ly­ing” because pri­or to becom­ing Georgia’s head attor­ney, Chris Carr had nev­er tried a court­room case, a prac­ticed skill nor­mal­ly high­ly-regard­ed as a qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the job of Georgia’s head lawyer. Thus, strange­ly, after the dust set­tled, Ken­ne­saw State Uni­ver­si­ty had a new pres­i­dent who had no back­ground in edu­ca­tion, and the State of Geor­gia had a new Attor­ney Gen­er­al who had nev­er argued a court­room case.

Almost iron­i­cal­ly, in the after­math of the 2020 elec­tion, Chris Carr’s first court­room case would place him before the US Supreme Court in Wash­ing­ton, DC, defend­ing the State of Geor­gia, and in par­tic­u­lar, acts by Sec­re­tary of State Brad Raf­fensperg­er, in a Texas law­suit joined by 16 oth­er states, over the leg­endary dis­put­ed pres­i­den­tial outcome. 

Control over Georgia’s Election System Seized by Secretary of State Kemp

Strange events seem to fol­low these pump­kin farm politi­cians around. I say that because dur­ing the time in ques­tion, almost pre­dictably, Ken­ne­saw State, the new employ­er of uni­ver­si­ty Pres­i­dent Sam Olens, housed and oper­at­ed the Geor­gia Cen­ter for Elec­tion Sys­tems. Accord­ing to the Center’s web­site at the time, the pri­ma­ry pur­pose of the elec­tion sys­tem oper­at­ing under uni­ver­si­ty aus­pices was to main­tain “an arms-length work­ing rela­tion­ship with the Sec­re­tary of State and the ven­dor, ensur­ing both inde­pen­dence and objec­tiv­i­ty in its work.” Think about that for a moment. The argu­ment lead­ing to this arrange­ment, in place for the pre­vi­ous 15 years, was that a sit­ting Sec­re­tary of State should not be in charge of a sys­tem under which his or her own elec­tion is deter­mined. That makes per­fect sense. In fact, that is why it is impor­tant for any elec­tion sys­tem to main­tain at least and arm’s length of sep­a­ra­tion not only between var­i­ous ven­dors sup­ply­ing vot­ing equip­ment and ser­vices, but also any can­di­dates run­ning for office, and cer­tain­ly any elect­ed offi­cials such as a sit­ting Sec­re­tary of State. Thus, to accom­plish that sep­a­ra­tion was the very rea­son Sam Olens’ new employ­er, Ken­ne­saw State, had been run­ning the Geor­gia Elec­tion Cen­ter all that time. But cir­cum­stances were about to work togeth­er to alter that arrange­ment. The rea­son for oper­at­ing the elec­tion cen­ter apart from the influ­ence of politi­cians run­ning for office under the very sys­tem they con­trol, was about to be over­rid­den by Sec­re­tary of State Bri­an Kemp. 

Olens Takes Criticism From All Sides

Sam Olens couldn’t catch a break, not as Attor­ney Gen­er­al and not as uni­ver­si­ty pres­i­dent. That is because, in Novem­ber 2016, short­ly after tak­ing office at Ken­ne­saw State a cyber expert work­ing for plain­tiffs in a law­suit over elec­tion sys­tem vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, alleged iden­ti­fy­ing a secu­ri­ty breach in the Ken­ne­saw elec­tion sys­tem, pos­si­bly by those pesky Rus­sians, unleash­ing a wave of attacks on Olens as well as accu­sa­tions of neg­li­gence against employ­ees respon­si­ble for oper­at­ing the sys­tem apart from polit­i­cal influ­ence. Mar­i­lyn Marks, for exam­ple, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Coali­tion for Good Gov­er­nance argued “a uni­ver­si­ty has no busi­ness play­ing such a crit­i­cal role in the over­sight of a state’s elec­tion infra­struc­ture.” Marks spoke freely about the fresh­ly-hired uni­ver­si­ty pres­i­dent Olens, seem­ing­ly won­der­ing aloud to a reporter, “A strange pick is para­chut­ed in, Sam Olens, the only per­son they inter­viewed, sud­den­ly becomes the head of the uni­ver­si­ty. He doesn’t have any aca­d­e­m­ic train­ing. He’s not an edu­ca­tor.” And she was right. By all that is holy, at the time these rev­e­la­tions came to light, Sam Olens should have been Georgia’s Attor­ney Gen­er­al, with two years remain­ing in his term, not a uni­ver­si­ty pres­i­dent charged with ulti­mate over­sight of statewide elections. 

Are you begin­ning to see why none of this real­ly makes much sense? 

Rus­so-pho­bic fears per­me­at­ed the main­stream media
And so, because of an appar­ent breach in the com­put­er sys­tem of the Geor­gia Cen­ter for Elec­tions at Ken­ne­saw State, then Sec­re­tary of State Bri­an Kemp had a per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to can­cel the state’s con­tract with Ken­ne­saw, and thus bring con­trol and over­sight of Geor­gia elec­tions direct­ly under his office, and under his peo­ple, in time for the 2018 mid-terms, an elec­tion in which he would per­son­al­ly chal­lenge to become Georgia’s Gov­er­nor, and an elec­tion in which can­di­date Brad Raf­fensperg­er would run to take Kemp’s place. 

Announc­ing the change in pol­i­cy, on July 14, 2017, the AJC report­ed the fol­low­ing state­ment issued by Sec­re­tary of State Kemp, 

“Today my office and Ken­ne­saw State Uni­ver­si­ty exe­cut­ed what will be the final con­tract between our two enti­ties relat­ed to the Cen­ter for Elec­tion Sys­tems. The ever-chang­ing land­scape of tech­nol­o­gy demands that we change with it. 

“The Sec­re­tary of State’s office is equipped, trained and test­ed to han­dle these oper­a­tions in-house,” Kemp said. “I am con­fi­dent that this move will ensure Geor­gia con­tin­ues to have secure, acces­si­ble and fair elec­tions for years to come.”

In the same arti­cle, Sam Olens appar­ent­ly “over” the entire sit­u­a­tion, the pump­kin-farm-politi­cian-turned-Uni­ver­si­ty-Pres­i­dent effec­tive­ly declared a hearty “good rid­dance” to oper­at­ing the elec­tion cen­ter, his state­ment read­ing, “We sup­port the sec­re­tary of state’s deci­sion, and look for­ward to help­ing facil­i­tate a smooth transition.”

Five months lat­er, in Decem­ber of 2017, Ken­ne­saw State Uni­ver­si­ty Pres­i­dent Sam Olens would step down from his position.

Secretary of State Kemp Authorizes SAFE Commission, Soon Running to Become Georgia’s Governor

Cred­it­ing an ongo­ing law­suit and the report­ed Ken­ne­saw data breach as his jus­ti­fi­ca­tions, after announc­ing the change bring­ing elec­tion oper­a­tions under his own facil­i­ties, in April 2018 Sec­re­tary of State Bri­an Kemp announced the mem­bers of a new “SAFE” Com­mis­sion, which he would chair, assigned the task of “con­duct­ing ‘thor­ough dis­cus­sions on all options – includ­ing the fea­si­bil­i­ty of using all hand-marked paper bal­lots to all elec­tron­ic machines with a vot­er-ver­i­fied paper trail – and trav­el the state to solic­it feed­back from stake­hold­ers.” “SAFE” stood for “Secure, Acces­si­ble & Fair Elections.” 

The tan­gi­ble result of the SAFE Commission’s work would be a report pub­lished by new­ly-elect­ed Sec­re­tary of State Brad Raf­fensperg­er in Jan­u­ary 2019. By that time, pre­vi­ous Sec­re­tary of State Bri­an Kemp had become Georgia’s new gov­er­nor, which is anoth­er sto­ry, roots plant­ed firm­ly in the soil at the Daw­sonville pump­kin farm in August of 2014. I say that because yet anoth­er can­di­date trav­el­ing in the Repub­li­can car­a­van that day would play an instru­men­tal role in Kemp’s 2018 election. 

Trump Endorsement Wins Kemp the Republican Nomination

To become gov­er­nor, Sec­re­tary of State Bri­an Kemp would have to leapfrog the nat­ur­al front-run­ner, incum­bent Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Casey Cagle, run­ning for the same posi­tion. Cagle won the May pri­ma­ry hand­i­ly, albeit with­out a req­ui­site major­i­ty, lead­ing sec­ond place fin­ish­er Kemp by a com­mand­ing 14%. Cagle had the strong endorse­ment of out-going Gov­er­nor Nathan Deal. The Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor solid­ly led Kemp until a few days before the runoff, at which time Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump unex­pect­ed­ly chose to get involved in Georgia’s guber­na­to­r­i­al race, endors­ing Kemp in a Tweet. 

Grat­i­fied and excit­ed to receive Trump’s endorse­ment, Kemp rec­i­p­ro­cat­ed unwa­ver­ing sup­port for Trump look­ing for­ward to 2020, respond­ing to reporters, “It’s huge for us, to have his endorse­ment. I appre­ci­ate the pres­i­dent stand­ing with me – and I’ll be stand­ing with him in 2020.” In ret­ro­spect, we can see what Bri­an Kemp’s future “unwa­ver­ing sup­port” is real­ly worth. 

Won­der­ing how the endorse­ment real­ly came about, the Atlanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion report­ed,

It’s unclear how Kemp won over the pres­i­dent, who has promi­nent back­ers in both campaigns. 

U.S. Sen. David Per­due and U.S. Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Son­ny Per­due – who tapped Kemp for the sec­re­tary of state job in 2010 — are both neu­tral in the race, and sev­er­al Per­due allies said they had no part in the endorsement.

Asked how he land­ed Trump’s sup­port, Kemp said: “Who knows? We’ve just been down here work­ing hard, try­ing to keep the momen­tum going on.”

Lat­er, dur­ing numer­ous ral­lies, Don­ald Trump would pub­licly reveal the Kemp endorse­ment direct­ly result­ed from a request by pump­kin-farm-politi­cian-turned-fresh­man-Sen­a­tor, David Per­due. All this makes one won­der what might have occurred had a few storms that day required the pump­kin farm event to cancel. 

The Takeaway

Notwith­stand­ing var­i­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties of inner-work­ings among the pump­kin farm politi­cians, the impor­tant knowl­edge a read­er should take from all this is that, each of these rela­tion­ships worked togeth­er either by design or hap­pen­stance, to bring about the con­di­tions under which major changes in the oper­a­tion of Georgia’s elec­tion sys­tem would be forced into existence. 

As I leave Part 1 of the nar­ra­tive, the Geor­gia elec­tion sys­tem in place for 15 years, run by dis­in­ter­est­ed aca­d­e­mics at Ken­ne­saw State Uni­ver­si­ty, has been put on notice that their ser­vices would no longer be need­ed beyond June of 2018. In its place, hav­ing assem­bled the SAFE Com­mis­sion, Sec­re­tary of State Bri­an Kemp spun into motion the cre­ation of a new, in-house elec­tion sys­tem, this time, how­ev­er, run under the direct super­vi­sion of Georgia’s elect­ed Sec­re­tary of State, rather than a dis­in­ter­est­ed 3rd party.

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Soon, the smok­ing gun will be revealed… 

“We can­not absolute­ly know that all these exact adap­ta­tions are the result of pre­con­cert. But when we see a lot of framed tim­bers, dif­fer­ent potions of which we know have been got­ten out at dif­fer­ent times and places and by dif­fer­ent work­men, and we see these tim­bers joined togeth­er, and see they exact­ly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mor­tieses exact­ly fit­ting, and all the lengths and pro­por­tions of the dif­fer­ent pieces exact­ly adapt­ed to their respec­tive places, and not a piece too many or too few-not omit­ting even scaf­fold­ing-or, if a sin­gle piece be lack­ing, we see the place in the frame exact­ly fit­ted and pre­pared to yet bring such piece in-in such a case, we find it impos­si­ble not to believe that all under­stood one anoth­er from the begin­ning, and all worked upon a com­mon plan or draft drawn up before the first lick was struck.”—Abraham Lin­coln, House Divid­ed Speech before the Illi­nois Repub­li­can State Con­ven­tion, Spring­field, Illi­nois June 16, 1858.

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