For Democrats across the country rooting for Jon Ossoff in today’s Georgia special election to fill Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s vacated 6th District seat, yesterday’s revelations may dampen their hopes.
In a stunning 11th hour development in this hotly contested race, the Georgia Secretary of State reported yesterday that four voting machines slated to be used at the polls today were stolen from the vehicle of a precinct manager in Cobb County, GA, over the weekend. Adding to the intrigue, the machines were stolen Saturday, April 15th while parked at a Kroger supermarket, but the theft wasn’t reported to the Secretary of State’s office until the following Monday.
In a statement, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said, “It is unacceptable that the Cobb County Elections Office waited two days to notify my office of this theft. We have opened an investigation, and we are taking steps to ensure that it has no effect on the election tomorrow. I am confident that the results will not be compromised.”
Voting officials in Cobb County insist these aren’t the machines voters will use to cast ballots. Rather, they’re the machines that poll workers use to check voters in, and Cobb County Elections Director Janine Eveler said the stolen machines cannot be used to fraudulently vote in Tuesday’s election.
Acclaimed economist and prolific Facebook poster Robert Reich isn’t so sure. According to Reich, there is cause for concern because, “…all voting machines there – even those that weren’t stolen – are Diebold ‘Accuvote TS’ models, which have been described as ‘the worst: remote hackable, no paper trail.'”
Officials from both parties are quite anxious about what would normally be an unremarkable election to replace a congressman under any number of circumstances. But election watchers from all over the country will be reading the tea leaves to discern any larger meaning about Trump’s influence, or to ascertain any trends leading up to the 2018 midterm elections. A Democratic win will be interpreted as a sign that President Trump’s coat tails have been chopped off – if the ever existed in the first place.
Which explains why Jon Ossoff has come under such blistering fire in the last few weeks. The Republican field is cluttered and divided, and because of the format of the primary, he only needs 50% of today’s vote to turn the deep red suburban Atlanta seat blue for the first time in decades. For weeks, he’s been polling near that 50% threshold, and Republicans have been pouring resources into the race to force a run-off they’re confident they will win.
President Trump recorded a last-minute robocall in which he said, among other things, “If you don’t vote tomorrow, Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your health care and flood our country with illegal immigrants.” He’s even been attacking Ossoff on Twitter, urging his followers to “vote Republican” at the polls today.
In the grand scheme of things, a Democratic upset today wouldn’t change the voting dynamics in the current congress much. The GOP will still enjoy a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives. An Ossoff win, however, would squash Trump’s ego, and it could stop cold any remaining momentum Speaker Paul Ryan and Republicans in congress may have left.
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Peter Mellado is a writer, producer, and a branding and messaging specialist with over 15 years experience. He studied history at San Jose State University, and resides in Los Angeles.