APN Chat with David Chastain, Libertarian Nominee 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 David Chastain, the Libertarian nominee running for Secretary of State of Georgia.

State Rep. Georganna Sinkfield won the Democratic nomination in a Run-off Election with State Sen. Gail Buckner. APN had endorsed Buckner in the Run-off.

APN previously interviewed Sinkfield, and the four other Democratic nominees, regarding their positions on electronic voting and elections integrity. APN found that Sinkfield does not acknowledge a problem with the E-voting machines, says she does not see a viable solution even if there was a problem, and says that the State of Georgia lacks funding to fix anything.

Sinkfield faces Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee; and Chastain, the Libertarian nominee, in the General Election.

Chastain is an elections integrity activist who has previously worked with VoterGA and has been previously featured in the Atlanta Progressive News.

Chastain has been heavily campaigning to take votes away from Mr. Kemp, and believes that if he can also cut into some of Sinkfield’s supporters, that he can get into the Run-off Election and ultimately become the first Libertarian to hold statewide office in Georgia.

Chastain will also be participating in APN’s upcoming Official Town Hall Meeting on September 21, 2010, dealing with ballot access for third party and independent candidates. Sinkfield and Kemp have also been invited to participate.

APN asked Chastain 15 questions related to the Secretary of State’s office, particularly related to elections integrity.

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

I don’t trust it.

The reasons, single-issue referendums. I assume if there’s one question on the ballot, someone shows up to vote yes or no. The total votes minus the yeses and no’s should be zero.

On December 29, 2009, I went to the archive. I looked at 50 referendums, looking at precincts… out of 50, only one showed zero. So I pulled the file. Two separate Diebold machines, in Floyd County, Rome, Georgia, the official scratched out the numbers to balance to zero.

I called Cobb County [where the blank votes could have swayed the election] and I was told that people show up to vote but don’t cast one way or the other, they just wanted to say they showed up and voted.

There must be thousands of blank ballots over the last few years. 0.7 percent of the votes in Georgia go in as blanks.

I believe the hardware is flawed in its design. They spent 50 million dollars on machines that can’t be audited. The machines are stored in a warehouse with no humidity control.

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 lean towards optical scan.

When was the last time you had a challenge to SAT scores [which are optical scan]?

Optical scan would be better. It would save money. You wouldn’t need as many machines.

We’re not gonna let anybody walk out with a piece of paper. But you want to audit something physical. I understand we don’t own the results; it belongs to the company.

DO YOU SUPPORT OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE CODE?

Definitely. We’re still gonna have security. Think of all the things on the Internet that’s open source with security.

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?

It’s difficult to say. I would start working on it immediately. I don’t need to see a blue ribbon committee like some of the other candidates suggested [for example, Gail Buckner]. I want to get a few technical people together. The other states have dumped the machines.

We’ve got to figure out where the funding is gonna come from. By the end of the first term, I want to have a plan. Would know what the solution needs to be. It all depends on the Governor and the legislature. No state is doing what we’re doing anymore. Within four years we should have a solution and a plan, hopefully sooner.

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

I think 55 million was too costly for what we got. Anything going forward would be less than that. 100 million, Kemp said; they don’t know. I heard one-third of 100 million.

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

Yes. (see above).

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?

[Chastain is the one who raised the issue with the State Elections Board which led to the investigation, although he was never contacted by the Inspector General’s Office, as previously reported by APN.]

No. I looked at 50 single-issue referendums and am convinced there’s a flaw in the hardware. Almost 3,000 [blank votes] I could point to.

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

Yes.

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

They made it overly complicated. You need to verify that someone is a resident of Georgia and a US citizen. There aren’t even 12 cases where illegals tried to vote and they didn’t know. They were innocent.

I’m more concerned with the fact 3,000 US citizens thought they voted but their vote didn’t count.

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

I don’t think there should be any petitioning requirement. Look at nonpartisan elections, like city elections. When was the last time you had 20 people running for Mayor? It’s not a big deal.

The only ones who benefit are the Democrats and the Republicans because they control the door.

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

No.

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

When Garland [Favorito] started VoterGA I helped do fundraising. I raised the issue [of blank votes] with the State Elections Board in 2009 and they started the investigation without contacting me.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WHO ARGUED THAT YOU’RE UNLIKELY TO WIN AND A VOTE FOR YOU WOULD BE A WASTED VOTE? OR SOMEONE CONCERNED THAT IF THEY VOTE FOR YOU INSTEAD OF SINKFIELD, AND YOU DON’T WIN, IT COULD HELP KEMP WIN THE ELECTION?

I hear about the wasted vote. It’s not a wasted vote. Vote for what you want. If you want the status quo, that’s fine. I don’t know if it’s wasted. Vote for real reform.

(END/2010)

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