Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

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Election Case Dismissed After Questionable Prosecution

by PV

Contact: Garland Favorito (404) 664-4044

January 18, 2009

ATLANTA, GA – All matters asserted against former Lowndes County elections technician, Laura Gallegos, were dismissed last Thursday during an administrative hearing. The State Election Board (SEB) had accused her of improper testing which led to the inclusion of 947 test votes in the 2008 Lowndes County election results. The case was investigated by the office of Shawn LaGrua, the Inspector General who reported to SEB chairwoman and former Secretary of State, Karen Handel.

The dubious facts of Mrs. Gallegos’ case have attracted statewide attention that helped her garner assistance from civic organizations including the Georgia Voting Rights Coalition, the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Defenders of Democracy, Operation Restoration, Madison Forum, and VoterGA. VoterGA assisted Mrs. Gallegos’ attorney, Converse Bright of Valdosta, Ga, in preparing the defense and offered expert witness testimony on her behalf.

Testifying for the Georgia State Elections Board (“SEB”), Mr. James Long, a voting machine engineer hired from the Federal Elections Assistance Commission to support Georgia’s state elections, provided technical background for the case that was prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Ann Brumbaugh.

However, during cross examination, he concurred with points made by Mr. Bright in his opening argument, including that:

* The voting machines will accept test votes while accumulating actual election night results;

*None of the testing that Mrs. Gallegos allegedly skipped had anything to do with the inclusion of the 947 test votes into the live results on election night 2008;

*The 947 test votes were included when an unidentified election official loaded a memory card during vote accumulation and ignored a warning indicating the card had test votes;

*There was no evidence that Mrs. Gallegos, who was not even present during the accumulation, committed any violation on election night;

* The machine malfunction that Mrs. Gallegos discovered during testing caused it not to clear the test votes from that card;

* It was not the responsibility Mrs. Gallegos for matching the poll book totals to the recap of votes cast to detect potential discrepancies on election night 2008, but the sole responsibility of the county elections superintendent;

Judge John Gatto dismissed the case after confirming another opening argument made by Mr. Bright. He determined from testimony by supervisor, Deb Cox that she had not properly sworn in Mrs. Gallegos as a voting machine custodian.

Evidence supporting all of these findings was previously delivered to the SEB in requests by Mrs. Gallegos and VoterGA. They sought to reopen her case due to lack of a proper hearing, as required by law. Their requests were denied in a December 2009 SEB meeting by Karen Handel.

Mrs. Gallegos’ saga is not over yet. She has filed a pending complaint to the State Inspector General’s office claiming that her investigation and prosecution was conducted to cover up a voting machine defect and as many as a half dozen or more potential violations committed by her supervisor. The verdict and admissions in her trial appear to corroborate her complaint.

Although found innocent of any wrongdoing in the Administrative Law hearing, Mrs. Gallegos spent thousands of dollars in attorney fees and her family has suffered a foreclosure as a result of her being unlawfully terminated from her job she held for 8 years with the Lowndes County Board of Elections.

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