By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
The whole world is watching Georgia's US Senate runoff elections. Set to finish January 5th, the elections will decide who controls the balance of power in the pivotal next US Congress.
With them comes a "hidden" down-ballot Georgia Public Service Commission race that hovers over America's last two big nuke reactors " and that could upend the whole Senatorial outcome.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into the state. Every nanosecond of radio/TV time has been bought and overpaid for.
The preliminary battles have raged over voter registration and turnout, precinct closures, misinformation about where people can vote, intimidation of citizens waiting in line during early voting, rejection of "flawed" ballots, and much more.
But they all pale before one issue: will there be a fair and accurate vote count?
The answer depends on whether grassroots citizen groups can muster the expertise, the staff, and the clout to make sure ballots are correctly marked, properly scanned, and accurately counted and then rightly recounted.
It's a decisive undertaking.
Ballots mailed to voters are mostly sent back through the postal service or put in drop boxes. They can also be returned in person to election boards, which may be the safest option of all.
They're then screened. Signatures are checked, markings are verified. Partisan advocates can observe the process and are often hot to disqualify. The Georgia Secretary of State's office is now claiming a tiny percentage of the cast ballots are being thrown out.
Georgia does have a "curing" process, where voters whose ballots are rejected can be called or otherwise notified. That correction process can be uneven.
Once the ballots are approved, they're scanned directly into an electronic reader. The ballots themselves are preserved.
The images made during the scanning process and then electronically read can easily be saved on hard drives. There's no logical reason to erase these images, which make recounts much easier to do. But many counties do it anyway.
Voters who personally bring their ballots into a voting center (as opposed to an election board) usually must surrender them, then vote using a touchscreen marking device.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).