A day after Valentine’s Day, there wasn’t much love lost between the Secretary of State Office’s Chief Operating Officer Gabe Sterling and advocates for cleaning the voter rolls at Georgia Senate Ethics Committee Hearing. Although testimony was cordial, Jason Fraizer, Mark Davis, and Dr. Rick Richards were not moved by Sterling’s bold assertion that “Georgia is number one in America with the cleanest lists in the United States,” that Georgia “does it better than anyone else,” and that federal law is largely to blame for the remaining errors.

But hiding behind the limits of federal law was a hard sell, especially in the face of witness testimony about excessive and sloppy data entry errors plaguing Georgia’s voter rolls.

As a key state in the upcoming presidential election, the hearing drew the attention of advocates for secure elections from across the country. Nobody wants to revisit the confusion of the 2020 election, in which Georgia’s rolls were one of many concerns. While this hearing did not relitigate past elections, it did seek to prevent similar issues from arising in future elections, and to work towards increasing voter confidence in Georgia and beyond by identifying flaws in the data.

Jason Fraizer, a member of the Election Confidence Task Force and a mechanical engineer with his MBA, reported to the committee that he had found 10,000 duplicate registrations in Fulton County, including one voter that was registered eleven times, before turning over lines of data to county officials and ceasing to keep track.

His 20 minutes of testimony became almost comical as he reported finding voters registered at “Missing Address Street,” born in 1800 and 1900, and named “No Name No Name.” All in all, Fraiser reported finding thousands of violations to Georgia’s requirements for voter registration—thousands of voters registered at commercial businesses or missing addresses, and hundreds missing dates of birth.

Mark Davis testified to finding similar issues through his work filing Section 230 voter challenges, a lawful effort under Georgia state law that allows citizens to challenge the eligibility of another voter on the voter roll, and an effort that landed him in a federal court when the Democrat election lawyer Mark Elias filed a complaint that mass challenges amounted to voter intimidation in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Although Davis and the other defendants walked away with a victory, they still had to endure years of high stress litigation and costly legal fees.

Following Davis, Dr. Rick Richards began his testimony by addressing Sterling’s claims head on, emphatically stating that the assertion that Georgia has the cleanest voter rolls is “an unsubstantiated myth.” In making his point, he presented his findings about the numbers of voters voting out of state, showed an example of a voter registration entry with missing data and inappropriate use of symbols in text fields, and the total number of symbols used in text fields, which reached in the millions. It is hard to think of a legitimate reason for the use of plus signs, question marks, and dollar signs in voter registration data, but there they are.

Perhaps most problematic for the Secretary of State’s Office and its attempt to hide behind federal law was Richard’s data showing that, according to state records, almost 2 million of Georgia’s registered voters had never voted. Federal law permits voters to be removed from the voter rolls after being inactive, but here there was no record of almost 2 million people ever voting, either indicating a massive failure to track voting history necessary for carrying out voter list maintenance, failure to remove inactive voters from the voter rolls, or suggesting that nearly 25% of Georgia’s voters registered to vote in the last several years and have not yet voted, which is highly unlikely. In conflict with Sterling’s opening remarks, the limits imposed by federal law, which, again, allow for inactive voters to be removed from voter rolls, do not explain abnormalities such as these.

Continuing, Richards pointed out hundreds of thousands of voter registrations without a last date of contact field completed or with the last date of contact being over 10 years ago, evidence that points to a failure to take inactive voters off the rolls in compliance with federal law. Richards then concluded with a bang, presenting the grand total of errors found, a staggering 3 million for the cleanest voter rolls in the United States.

Many Georgians, as well as election integrity experts across the country, would agree that the federal law should be reformed, but mass data entry errors and omissions are simply not the fault of federal law alone. There are things that can and should be done to improve the status quo in Georgia now, and fortunately these witnesses came prepared with recommendations. Some were simple, such as merely following the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s guidance for best practices—a rather obvious first step that all 50 states should consider.

The Secretary of State’s Office would do well to heed citizens’ recommendations and concerns because Georgian or not, the security of Georgia’s elections impacts us all.