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Suspicious? Dominion warned memory cards might need to be prematurely removed from voting machines

Due to vote counting limits, at least 36 memory cards in voter tabulators had to be prematurely removed, raising new concerns about chain of custody and belatedly discovered memory cards.

Updated: December 17, 2020 - 11:06pm

Dominion Voting Systems issued a warning to Georgia officials prior to the 2020 election that memory cards might need to be removed from vote tabulation machines prior to the end of the election to deal with a limitation in its system, according to records obtained by Just the News through an open-records request. 

Officials acknowledged Thursday at least 36 memory cards had to be prematurely removed from vote tabulating machines in the Atlanta area that had reached counting limits. The cards were stored in a locked cabinet until polls closed, officials said.

Dominion, which has fiercely defended its technology since Election Day, issued the "customer advisory" on Oct. 26, according to a "bulletin" sent to county election officials from Georgia Elections Division Director Chris Harvey. The memo was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request from Just the News to Fulton County, home to Atlanta, Georgia's largest city.

"Dominion Voting released a customer advisory yesterday stating that when an ImageCast Precinct (ICP) Tabulator reaches approximately 10,000 ballots cast for a single election, a message will appear that reads, 'Maximum Ballot Capacity Reached'," Harvey wrote in the memo.

Harvey directed officials to follow one of two policies outlined by Dominion "if [they] believe that a single ICP will reach 10,000 ballots cast." One of those was a directive to "remove the original memory cards from the tabulator that has reached or is nearing maximum capacity" and install new memory cards into it. 

Harvey's memo directed officials to refrain from closing the polls on the cards "until 7:00 p.m. on Election Night" and to "store the memory cards securely."

In attached instructions coming directly from Dominion, the company as part of that protocol directed workers to "remove the original memory cards and for store [sic] tabulation at the appropriate time." Those instructions do not mention anything about secure storage. 

The Secretary of State's office declined to comment on the state's implementation of Dominion's memory card directives, though the office said it had gone to significant lengths to ensure the integrity of both Dominion's machines and the election in general. 

An official with Dominion, meanwhile, on Thursday evening gave a statement via email through Fulton County spokeswoman Regina Waller. 

"Due to the amount of races that were on the November 2020 ballot and the large number of early voting polling sites that we have in Fulton County, the Dominion ICX scanner had the memory to hold ballot images of about 5,000 ballots," the official said. "After my staff and I did the test to confirm that the max was 5,000 ballots, we consulted upper management and made the determination that we would swap out memory cards at 3,000 ballots. We swapped out memory cards 36 times during the early voting period.

"For security, each set of memory cards was placed in a secure memory card bag that was locked and sealed and then placed in a locked cabinet," the official continued. "The memory cards were locked in the cabinet until election night after the polls closed at 7pm. At this time the cabinet was unlocked, the seals were broken on each bag and each memory card was uploaded into the Election Management System for tabulation."

Waller did not immediately respond when asked who exactly had given that statement, nor why Fulton County's machines apparently only had the capability to handle half the ballot capacity as had the tabulators mentioned in Harvey's memo. 

The recently revealed directive throws new light on memory card-related controversies that have arisen in Georgia since the 2020 election last month. 

In Walton County, Ga., officials discovered a memory card with nearly 300 votes on it several weeks after the election.

Around the same time, officials discovered a memory card with a similar number of votes in Douglas County.

In Fayette County, authorities found a memory card with over 2,700 votes on it, while in Floyd County officials found one memory card with 2,600 votes uncounted.

This was the first year that Georgia used Dominion to implement and process its elections. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced in 2019 that the state had selected Dominion as its voting vendor. Raffensperger in that announcement described the firm as a "security-focused tech company." 

In addition to the card-removal protocol, Dominion in its Oct. 26 advisory also offered election officials the opportunity to add more tabulators to their election setups rather than deploy new memory cards on original tabulators. That approach was the "preferred" option in Georgia, according to Harvey's memo.