APN Chat with Gary Horlacher, Candidate for Secretary of State

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(APN) ATLANTA — In our continuing coverage of the 2010 Statewide and Congressional Elections, we sat down with Gary Horlacher, 53, who is running for Secretary of State of Georgia.

In 2006, Gail Buckner won the the Democratic nomination and she is again running for the position. Buckner ultimately lost to Republican Karen Handel in 2006. Handel is now running for Governor.

Also running for this seat for the Democratic nomination this year are Angela Moore, Michael Mills, and State Rep. Georgiana Sinkfield.

Previous 2006 SOS Democratic Primary candidates are running for other offices this year. Darryl Hicks, who had been in a run-off with Buckner, is running for State Labor Commissioner. Scott Holcomb, who had received questionable donations in 2006 from a Choicepoint executive’s wife, is now running for State House District 82 to replace State Rep. Kevin Levitas, who is retiring.

Horlacher has worked as a government relations attorney for law firms such as Alston and Bird, and Adorno and Yoss. There he has dealt with elections law compliance, cases before the State Elections Board, corporate registration, and security investment work, he said.

“I’ve sat in on the State Elections Board and watched them manipulate the process,” he told Atlanta Progressive News.

Horlacher also served as a legislative intern for the University of Georgia, as a legal aide for the State House Judiciary committee, and as Georgia’s Assistant Commissioner of Labor.

He accused Buckner of hijacking his ideas, claiming that she only introduced legislation related to Saturday voting and SEB appointees after he brought it up. Buckner did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Two things Horlacher will tell you if you meet with him are that he subjected himself to a polygraph test and told the interviewer to ask him anything he wanted, and that he passed; and that he has been touring Georgia on a 159 county tour, with only a handful of Southeast Georgia counties left to visit.

Horlacher surprised many observers when his first disclosure showed him having raised several hundred thousand dollars. He tells APN that he’s been conservatively saving his money to run for this office for several years, and that he loaned his own campaign a quarter of a million dollars to run this year.

APN asked Horlacher 15 questions related to the Secretary of State’s office, particularly related to elections integrity. All other Democratic Primary candidates in this race have been interviewed except one; APN will attempt to reach out to the Sinkfield campaign, even though she entered the race at the last minute.

So far this campaign season, APN has also interviewed Gubernatorial candidate David Poythress; SOS candidates State Sen. Gail Buckner, Michael Mills, and Angela Moore; Congressional candidates US Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), Vernon Jones, and Connie Stokes; School Superintendent candidates Brian Westlake and Beth Farokhi; and Fulton County Commission District 6 candidates, Joan Garner and Keisha Waites.

CAN THE CURRENT GEORGIA E-VOTING MACHINES BE TRUSTED TO COUNT EVERY VOTE ACCURATELY ON ELECTION NIGHT?

I think the answer is yes, but the whole reason we’re having a paper trail, scan ballot discussion is, while the courts have ruled the machines accurate… What happens when you come to Bush v. Gore and you need to count? We need a verifiable record.

Doggone it, how do we know that the data is totally accurate? I support a paper verifiable system.

DO YOU SUPPORT KEEPING THE CURRENT SYSTEM, ADDING A VOTER VERIFIABLE PAPER AUDIT TRAIL (VVPAT) TO THE CURRENT SYSTEM, SWITCHING TO OPTICAL SCAN, OR SOME OTHER OPTION GOING FORWARD? WHY?

I’ve come up with a pretty innovative compromise. There are two options: go back to optical scan, there’s your paper ballot confirmed with technology; [or] if we have to keep touchscreen voting…

If you can go to an ATM and get immediately verification of your deposit… NCR just moved its headquarters to Georgia. Why don’t we team up with NCR, create hundreds of jobs here in Georgia, take it out of the hands of Diebold who’s warranted some scrutinty?

Part two is seriously upgrading software. I wouldn’t mind taking it out of the hands of Diebold. Let’s let the paper receipt spit out, let the voter look at it and sign it, and maybe roll into a canister.

DO YOU SUPPORT OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE CODE?

Yes. I’ve been at Kennesaw State University [election center]. I’ve actually… watched what they’re doing. In this state, we ought to be able to come up with a serious upgrade to the current software that Georgians can both develop and oversee, with a very vigilant oversight group and make sure you’re not repeating.

HANDEL AS A CANDIDATE SAID SHE SUPPORTED VVPAT BUT DIDN’T DO IT. WHAT SPECIFIC STEPS WOULD YOU TAKE TO IMPLEMENT A NEW SYSTEM AND HOW LONG INTO YOUR TERM WILL IT TAKE? ONE YEAR? TWO YEARS?

From day one that is going to be right at the top of my list. One of the harsh realities is, we’re gonna need a governor who’s gonna have a proper moral compass to facilitate through the budget process.

One of the powers of this office is a very large podium from which to speak. We’re gonna start upgrading this voting system, period. We’re gonna turn up the heat, let the people decide. Instituted by the 2012 election cycle.

WHAT TYPE OF AUDITING OF ELECTIONS WOULD YOU SUPPORT? RANDOM AUDITING? HOW OFTEN, ETC.?

Random audits are totally appropriate. Georgia is the second-most fractured state in counties after Texas. We’ve set up 159 counties. We need to make sure every one is complying.

HANDEL SAID IT WOULD BE TOO COSTLY TO CHANGE VOTING SYSTEMS. HOW MUCH IS TOO COSTLY FOR ELECTIONS INTEGRITY? IS THERE AN UPPER LIMIT?

That’s a political excuse and buck and dodging. Yes, we’re in this budget crunch, yes we’re in some brutal times.

We are talking about what our forefathers talked about, the top priority for this country, a fundamental right, that’s what defines a democracy: people’s right to vote.

There aren’t many other things that would count as a top priority, even in this crunch. You can afford ramps to fishing ponds, and wink and nod tax credits to contributing buddies leaking hundreds of millions of dollars. You’re telling me you can’t come up with 25 to 50 million dollars to upgrade our voting system? No.

DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE BLANK VOTES IN THE COBB COUNTY SPLOST?

Yes.

REGARDING THE COBB COUNTY SPLOST, THE INSPECTOR GENERAL REPORT SAID THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE OF MACHINE ERROR. ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THAT ANSWER- WHY OR WHY NOT?

You’re asking me to opinionate on something I don’t know. What questions did they ask and not ask? It’s another red flag. When it showed illustrations of flaws in the system, stop shrugging it off.

DID YOU SUPPORT HB 1215 IN THE GEORGIA LEGISLATURE TO GET OPTICAL SCAN MACHINES AND ELIMINATE DRE’S?

Until I’ve sat down with enough experts and really done the analysis of going to scan ballot versus upgrades of software and machines and doing the [VVPAT]… I’m gonna keep my mind open to one to two solutions.

DO YOU AGREE WITH GEORGIA’S NEW VOTER ID LAW?

I did not agree with it then. Now that they’ve managed to wiggle their way through the Supreme Court, there’s a debate over whether it’s worse. One solution may be a compromise, expand it back again [the number of acceptable forms of ID], if there’s evidence that certain demographics are affected.

DO YOU AGREE WITH THE CURRENT BALLOT ACCESS LAWS FOR THIRD PARTIES AND INDEPENDENTS?

No. I think that’s a flaw in our system. Why can you not allow people that are going to offer themselves for public service? If they’ve made the choice they don’t want to affiliate with either of the two parties… I see it as a potential revenue source. If they want to pay the qualifying fee, these fees… can help fund the State Election Board.

DO YOU AGREE WITH KAREN HANDEL IN THE FIGHT WITH THE US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE REGARDING THE VOTER VERIFICATION SYSTEM?

Heck no. Their inability to prove their case, unwillingness to even meet with the Justice Department and prove themself through the preclearance process is a red flag to me.

I thought they were using their office for partisan benefit. The initial challenge from the Bush Administration was we think you’re targeting certain demographics.

HAVE YOU ACCEPTED ANY CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS FROM ANY VENDORS DOING BUSINESS WITH THE SECRETARY OF STATE’S OFFICE?

Zero.

WHAT SPECIFICALLY HAVE YOU DONE TO SUPPORT ELECTIONS INTEGRITY AND REFORM?

Aside from making arguments at the ethics commission, at the SEB I’ve been more of an observer, and so I have come up within an advisory role for candidates.

(END/2010)

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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Our syndication policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

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