2002 Georgia general election

Revision as of 21:13, 28 November 2018 by Marionumber1 (talk | contribs) (Have Larisa credit Brett Kimberlin for finding Chris Hood)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

In 2002, Georgia experienced many shocking Republican upsets, seeing popular Democrats like Senator Max Cleland defeated. Many attributed this to a political sea change for the GOP after 9/11. But 2002 was also the year that paperless Diebold touchscreens were introduced to the state of Georgia, leaving the vote in the hands of a private corporation and impossible to verify.

Pre-election polls

The Democratic incumbents were consistently ahead in pre-election polls. Senator Max Cleland led by double digits for most of the campaign. While his margin slipped due to a barrage of negative campaigning by the GOP, Cleland was still ahead by 2-5% as election day approached. Yet the official results saw Cleland defeated by 7%, at least a 9% GOP gain over the polls. Governor Roy Barnes was decisively ahead in pre-election polling the entire time, maintaining a 9% lead right before election day. Yet Barnes lost by 7% on election day, an even-larger GOP shift of about 16% from the polls.[1]


Strange GOP upsets

Georgia's 2002 election saw popular Democrats being defeated in poll-defying GOP landslides. The Republican upsets were a shock to political observers. Not only did the results defy the polls to an extreme degree, in favor of Republicans each time, they seemed to defy logic. Max Cleland, a triple-amputee Vietnam veteran, was apparently trounced by his GOP opponent Saxby Chambliss, who ran ads calling him unpatriotic for opposing the Iraq War. And Roy Barnes, widely projected to win the governorship in a landslide, instead lost it in one to Sonny Perdue.

Voting patterns at the county level were also anomalous. The August primary revealed the partisanship of each county through the numbers of Democratic and Republican ballots cast. Georgia's heavily-Republican areas in the north gave Cleland 14% more votes than the primaries would indicate, and the heavily-Democratic areas in the south gave Chambliss 22% of the vote than the primaries would indicate.[2]

Privatized election

Diebold, the corporation supplying the voting machines, enjoyed total control over the 2002 Georgia election. In order to get the machines deployed in time, Secretary of State Cathy Cox agreed to let Diebold take over Georgia's election system. Diebold ran every aspect of the process: setup of the machines, access to the warehouses, ballot preparation, and training of poll workers. With free reign over the election, Diebold had a gaping window of opportunity to tamper with the voting machines. The state's only role was testing the machines, which would have been virtually useless for catching fraud.[3][4]

Illegal patches

During the run-up to the election, Diebold applied numerous uncertified patches to the voting machines. This was a flagrant violation of the law; all changes to voting machine software had to get recertified before being used. The company went to great lengths to hide these illegal patches from the state.

Chris Hood, a Diebold contractor, recalled a suspicious incident in July. Bob Urosevich, president of Diebold Election Systems, personally flew in from Texas to deliver a software patch. The Diebold workers were instructed to apply it without telling any state personnel, as it was an uncertified patch. Hood and his team covertly applied the patch early in the morning at warehouses in DeKalb and Fulton counties (the two largest in the state, and Democratic strongholds). Hood was struck by the oddity of Bob Urosevich being personally involved with the Georgia deployment, and how the patch didn't fix the clock issue it was allegedly meant to.[3][5]

Rob Behler, another Diebold contractor in Georgia, corroborated Hood's account of a clock fix patch. It was, in fact, a statewide patch, beyond DeKalb and Fulton counties where Hood personally worked. Behler also spoke about several other uncertified patches from Diebold, which Hood was aware of too. In a rush to make the machines work, Diebold was installing patches on the system up until election day. The programmers writing them intentionally kept the code from the certification labs, and Behler was ordered not to tell the state's voting machine security expert that uncertified patches were being installed. When Behler told the expert, Dr. Brit Williams, that they were doing so, Diebold executives (including Bob Urosevich) angrily reprimanded him.[6][7]

The illegal patches were also kept secret from SoS Cathy Cox, although she inadvertently found out. She wrote Bob Urosevich to confirm an uncertified patch on August 8, a patch Diebold admitted to without addressing its legality.[4] Cox angrily threatened to withhold funding, and Hood believes she settled for some payoff from Diebold to drop the matter. Though Dr. Williams initially denied knowledge of any patches, he later testified that an August 8 patch was illegally applied.[7]

Diebold's secretive behavior, which prevented anyone from reviewing its patches, and the odd involvement of Bob Urosevich heighten suspicion that the voting machines were rigged. If Diebold did conspire to rig the election, there were no absolutely safeguards in place to stop them. Nobody else saw what the patches did, and there was no paper trail.


The Georgia patch files were distributed on a Diebold FTP server. Programmers would upload the patches to the FTP site, and the field technicians would download them onto memory cards to be installed on the touchscreens. Bev Harris came across the Diebold FTP site in her investigations, and seeing it was unsecured, downloaded the files. She saved several of the Georgia patches, but one file's name stuck out: rob-georgia.zip.

rob-georgia.zip was believed by Chris Hood[7] and Rob Behler[6] to be the clock fix, though it turned out to be a GEMS patch instead. It replaced language files and AccuBasic scripts on the central tabulators.[8] The word "rob" further fed the suspicion over whether the election was stolen. Bev Harris checked if any Diebold employees named Rob worked in Georgia, which would innocuously explain the name. Diebold denied it, but Rob Behler then came forward for an interview with her. However, the rob-georgia.zip files were created on June 4, and Behler was hired in mid-late June, indicating the name might not refer to him after all.[6]


The shock Republican upsets over Max Cleland and Roy Barnes delivered Georgia into Republican hands. A major strategic objective of Karl Rove succeeded as Georgia became a GOP stronghold in the South. And all of this coincided with the introduction of unauditable electronic voting machines, subject to a secretive corporation that had unchecked control over their software. Georgia's 2002 election altered the state's political destiny and marked one of the first fronts in the electronic hijacking of democracy. HAVA's mandate would expose other states to the same opportunity.

See also


  1. Alastair Thompson, "An American Coup: (2002) Midterm Election Polls vs. Actuals", 2002/11/12 - 2002 pre-election polls
  2. Baltimore City Paper, "Future Vote" by Van Smith, 2002/12/11 - anomalies in 2002 GA results
  3. 3.0 3.1 Robert F. Kennedy Jr., "Will The Next Election Be Hacked?", 2006/09/21 (pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Raw Story, "Documents show Georgia's Secretary of State knew of Diebold patch", 2008/07/30
  5. Velvet Revolution interview with Chris Hood on 2006/10/15
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Bev Harris, Black Box Voting, p.123-137 - inquiry into rob-georgia.zip
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Atlanta Progressive News, "E-Vote Questions Linger Over Cleland's 2002 Loss", 2008/11/25 - shows that Diebold whistleblowers Rob Behler and Chris Hood corroborate each other about the Georgia patches
  8. Bev Harris further explains rob-georgia.zip

External links