Ryan Germany is the General Counsel and Assistant Commissioner of Securities & Charities for the Georgia Secretary of State. Ryan oversees all legal functions for the Secretary of State’s office, including litigation, compliance, and regulatory actions. He also investigates allegations of securities and charities fraud, brings appropriate enforcement action, and helps businesses raise capital through the Invest Georgia Exemption.
Previously, Ryan was an Associate with Lightfoot, Franklin & White, where he represented businesses in the financial services, technology, real estate, natural resources, and aviation/aerospace industries.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Ryan Germany discusses how the office of the Georgia Secretary of State addresses election security
- What are the common misconceptions about how votes are counted?
- The benefits of implementing a uniform voting system across all the counties in a state
- Why are an increasing number of politicians disputing election results?
- Ryan explains how absentee ballots are secured
In this episode…
These days, a big question on everyone’s mind is election security. Each region handles it differently — sometimes the process even varies across a single state. So, how exactly are states addressing election security? What type of planning is involved?
Meet Ryan Germany, a lawyer for the Georgia Secretary of State. He says the misconceptions surrounding ballot security have intensified since 2018, and their office is often playing “rumor whack-a-mole.” More and more politicians are claiming voter fraud in an effort to get a re-vote. So, how do you know what to believe on the news? Is voting as insecure as they say?
In this episode of She Said Privacy/He Said Security, Jodi and Justin Daniels sit down with Ryan Germany, the General Counsel and Assistant Commission of Security & Charities for the Georgia Secretary of State, to discuss how states are handling security measures for voting. Ryan talks about the misconceptions surrounding elections, the benefits of a uniform voting system across a state, and whether or not absentee ballots are secure.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Ryan Germany on LinkedIn
- Georgia Secretary of State
- Jodi Daniels on LinkedIn
- Justin Daniels on LinkedIn
- Red Clover Advisors
- Red Clover Advisors on LinkedIn
- Red Clover Advisors on Facebook
- Red Clover Advisors’ email: email@example.com
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Red Clover Advisors.
Red Clover Advisors uses data privacy to transform the way that companies do business together and create a future where there is greater trust between companies and consumers.
Founded by Jodi Daniels, Red Clover Advisors helps their clients comply with data privacy laws and establish customer trust so that they can grow and nurture integrity. They work with companies in a variety of fields, including technology, SaaS, ecommerce, media agencies, professional services, and financial services.
You can get a copy of their free guide, “Privacy Resource Pack,” through this link.
Welcome to the She Said Privacy/He Said Security podcast. Like any good marriage we will debate, evaluate, and sometimes quarrel about how privacy and security impact business in the 21st century.
Jodi Daniels 0:20
HI, Jodi Daniels here. I’m the Founder and CEO of Red Clover Advisors, a certified women’s privacy consultancy. I’m a privacy consultant and a Certified Information Privacy Professional and I help provide practical privacy advice to overwhelmed companies
Justin Daniels 0:36
Justin Daniels here I am passionate about helping companies solve complex cyber and privacy challenges during the lifecycle of their business. I am the cyber quarterback helping clients design and implement cyber plans as well as help them manage and recover from data breaches.
Jodi Daniels 0:51
And this episode is brought to you by really wimpy cuz I have like a better drumroll please. Red Clover Advisors, which is celebrating its fourth birthday. As of this recording. We help companies to comply with data privacy laws and establish customer trust so that they can grow and nurture integrity. We work with companies in a variety of fields including technology, SaaS, e-commerce, media agencies, and professional and financial services. In short, we use data privacy to transform the way companies do business. Together, we’re creating a future where there’s greater trust between companies and consumers. To learn more, visit redcloveradvisors.com. I’m super excited about today’s guest today.
Justin Daniels 1:35
Yes. And I think I’ll start today by saying that I vote that I should be given Person of the month for how well I take out the trash.
Jodi Daniels 1:42
I give those things out and you do not receive that award.
Justin Daniels 1:47
Well, anyway, with that in mind, I’m very excited to have someone on the show I’ve known for years. It is Ryan Germany, and he has served as General Counsel to three Georgia secretaries of state, Brian Kemp Robin Crittenden, and he is currently General Counsel to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffenspergerr prior to returning home to Atlanta to join the office. Ryan was an associate at Lightfoot, Franklin & White in Birmingham, Alabama, where he practiced commercial litigation and represented clients in securities, financial services aviation industry, he has his law degree from Washington and Lee University, where he served on the executive committee of the student body and his undergraduate degree is from the University of Georgia. He is a proud husband of Andhra and the proud father of nine year old Claire.
Ryan Germany 2:31
Welcome to the show. Thanks. Thanks for inviting, glad to be here.
Jodi Daniels 2:35
Absolutely. I just I think you had something fun that you wanted to talk about, about how you heard about Ryan Germany. Well,
Justin Daniels 2:41
I’ve known Ryan for years because we had him speak at cyber con. I just didn’t expect I was listening to Stephen Colbert, his monologue. And he was talking about Ryan Germany, but there wasn’t like fully ln a certain word. Wow.
Jodi Daniels 2:55
So we’re very excited. Well, Ryan, we asked everyone to kind of give us a story arc. We’ve heard a little bit from your bio, you know, law lawyer to where you are now, but kind of help us fill in the blank of how you landed where you are today.
Ryan Germany 3:10
Sure. Yeah. Thanks. Thanks for having me. Great to be here having a Justin for a long time. I think I first met him back at an event you were having at EDD, your firm. And it was just a great event that you were putting on for for young startup companies and designer that we kind of kept in touch since then. And I’m and I’m honored that you guys invited me. So thanks. Um, I grew up in Atlanta, and then went to Georgia, and I decided to go to law school. after law school. I ended up going to a farm in Birmingham, which was not really somewhere I was expecting to go. But I met the guys that Lightfoot, Franklin & White and really, really liked him. It’s a it’s a small, it’s a it’s just litigation firm. So 65 attorneys, so you know, pretty big for just litigation. But everyone there does litigation, and it’s kind of a smaller firm to deal with some of the other big, big law firms, and really had a great four years. It’s a great place to live after we had Claire who sent introductions now nine. But after we had her, my wife and I were both working at law firms and lawyers, and we kind of decided it’d be nice to be around some family. So started looking at coming back to Atlanta and my family or my family was and I wasn’t really thinking about government jobs at all. But a friend told me you should Secretary thanks again for General Counsel. I was an Alabama Secretary, Secretary of State was that I met then Secretary of State camp and we got along in the optimal position and the rest is history I’ve been I’ve been I’ve been here ever since.
Jodi Daniels 4:48
Well, it’s always really fun and fascinating to share. The most exciting part about that is that you also have a daughter. We have two girls here ourselves so people can either collaborate or commiserate Depends on the day. Exactly, exactly. Alright, I’m gonna steal the mic and dive in. I, this is so excited about this episode. A big, big question on everyone’s mind is election security. Right? We all go to the polls. We’re all voting, how it’s done. And each regions all different locally to across the different states help us understand how how does the office address election security? What are some of the steps involved? What type of planning is involved? I think that would be really helpful.
Ryan Germany 5:30
Yeah, I mean, election security is probably our main priority of all the things that we do. And it’s a big topic, it can mean, I think it encompasses all of these things, it means, Okay, first, we got to make sure that, you know, only eligible voters are voting, that there’s a there’s things in place to kind of keep it secure from from that perspective. And there’s, there’s different ways we do that through voter registrations are less maintenance. And that was maintenance is basically when we keep the voter rolls up to date, we actually get sued about that a lot. People who sue us call it purging, I don’t really agree that it’s purge. Because it’s not because if you are basically removed as an active voter, you’re still in our database as a canceled voter. And if there’s some issue, it can be corrected, but it just really crucial to having secure elections to have good list maintenance. So you know, you know who’s supposed to show up, and where, and when, and all and all that stuff. That’s one part of election security. The other part of that, I think, is the the actual equipment that’s used for for the election, it’s got to be highly secure. But at the same time, it’s also got to be highly usable for people who are voters who use this equipment. In Georgia, we vote on most people vote on touchscreens, and we do in person who could vote in that way since 2002. Under Secretary of State Kathleen Cox last year, as you were mentioned in Jodi, before we got on, we have a new election and a new type of cuts to vote on. I think the touch screens bring a lot to the table, because you basically get rid of any questions about voter intent, in terms of I talk to election officials in counties every day, and they tell me every year they see something new that a voter does on an absentee ballot, they’re like, Oh, I didn’t think anybody would, instead of marking in the bubble, do it that way. But they see it every year and it and it can be problematic in terms of properly perverting that person’s vote. So the touchscreens get rid of get rid of that aspect. They have functionality for disabled voters. And for people who might need a little bigger, it has gone increase the font and do things like that was helpful. So we got to keep all that equipment secure. It’s a touchscreen is obviously a scanner, where you scan your ballot into there’s pole pads when you check into the and then there’s sort of an election Management Server on the back end, it’s just at the county level to all that is kind of the the election, election system and it and it’s really a different rules in place even secure. At the same time. It’s got to be highly usable for voters, and also highly usable for poll workers who they don’t do this every day. And it happens basically a few times every every other year. And so I think, you know, there’s some new challenges and elections with kind of balancing that security with the accessibility and with the user friendliness to make sure that when people show up that the voting
Justin Daniels 8:50
So Ryan has a follow up, because really what you’re telling me is from a security perspective, how do I make something secure, but yet flexible and easy to use for people who this isn’t there all day, every day job? And so obviously, as we all know, Georgia has been in the news for our elections for many months with the most recent election. And if you could just talk a little bit about what are some of the misconceptions that you see out there about what the processes are around, you know, how votes get tabulated and whatnot, if you can just speak in general about what systems are in place?
Ryan Germany 9:21
Yeah, I mean, you know, unfortunately, kind of posts the past two election cycles 2020 in Georgia in 2018. There’s, there’s just been a lot of misinformation about how elections work. It feels like sometimes we’re playing Rumer whack a mole after 2018 and in the lead up to 2018. And post 2018. Again, I was in this office and we were accused of voter suppression, and we’re in there was there were accusations then I’m on machines are flipping votes and not counting votes and you can’t really be you can’t really trust these results. We saw We saw really similar claims post 2020. where, you know, it’s kind of funny, because in the lead up to the 2020 election there, there, there’s an active lawsuit challenging the voting machines. Basically, they’re saying they’re not not secure enough. And somehow it’s a constitutional point. So it’s, it’s fairly, I don’t know how to describe it, it’s kind of weird basis, I know that we only get secure, so it’s unconstitutional. But post 2020, we saw the same, the same similar claims being made about Oh, boats, or, you know, they’re slipping boats, there’s counterfeit ballots, and all and all of these things. And, you know, we haven’t seen any evidence of that. And so we’ve been trying to play them a whack a mole on those things since 2020. What’s been interesting is the people judging the election machines prior to 2020 election are, you know, they’re they’re affiliated more with the political left, and then post the election in Georgia, with people on the on the allied with President Trump, who were really pushing some of those claims about, oh, no votes went to Germany, or these machines are manufactured by Venezuela. And I mean, this stuff. That’s, that is really, truly bizarre. Um, and, you know, fortunately, I think it’s all been kind of shown in court to be to be not the case of the people that have asserted those claims. But, you know, I think I think one thing we’ve got to be careful on, given what we’ve seen the past two election cycles is people is that misinformation that happened before the election, because people use that and people, people kind of who are on opposite political sides are now citing experts, quote, unquote, experts from the other political side, because before the election, they were saying you can’t trust this system. And now after the election, you know, they they want to, they like the results, and they want to say you can trust it, but people are using what they said before the election to say, Oh, we can’t trust the system. And from what I’ve seen is, you know, I think the I think our results are highly reliable. You know, I think our county election officials do a really good job, we got 159 counties in Georgia, each one runs around election, that’s good from a security perspective, because if they basically made for all these different kind of points, someone would have to utilize, it’s also a challenge, because, you know, it means you’ve got the nine different way different kind of sets of people who you have to have to accomplish this. So I think that just goes back to having kind of that balance, we’re trying to find earlier and see a lot of a lot of different, a lot of different. Basically, there’s good, there’s good things, good reasons for a lot of these things are good, good things behind them. And then it also leads to challenges, we’ve got to try to try one
Jodi Daniels 12:54
of the 159 counties, that’s a lot of counties, everyone’s going to have a little bit of a different approach. And yet they’re all supposed to be using, you know, a machine, can you share a little bit about the approach or how you help communicate? what some of the the measures that you would want these different counties to be taking into consideration?
Ryan Germany 13:12
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Georgia is a bit unique. And that we all every county in the state uses the same equipment. That happened that first happened in in 2000, to prop women with like a carry state, Kathy Cox brought in the previous election system before that, each county can use their own, basically their own type of system, and there was different systems for different counties, a lot of states still do it that way, where you can have your vote a different way, depending on what what county you’re in. I think, you know, the a uniform state where we all you set a limit has a lot of benefits. And that, you know, the Secretary of State’s office is able to provide training on equipment and provide support on equipment. Um, you know, it also, I think, has some has some downsides. Kind of like what we were saying earlier, where, you know, sometimes counties even though it’s a county function, they can get overly reliant on the state for for certain things. And that’s that that’s not what we’re looking for in elections. So but I think one thing that we saw in Georgia and this came up posts are I guess it was 2017, in the legislature, former Secretary temp and the legislature enacted the sick, the Safe, safe Commission, the safe, secure and verifiable voting or secure, accessible and fair voting commission, looking at Okay, what are we going to do to you know, what’s what’s that our next system look like? And I think one thing they found is once a state kind of becomes a uniform state, like we did in 2002, really hard to basically go back and so they decided, Okay, maintain uniformity. This This way the state has, I was talking to a county yesterday, they were getting some backup equipment. Okay. We have We can let you use. And that’s a benefit without other benefits. I think it was 2018 when southwest Georgia had some big hurricanes, during the time when voting voting happened, and states were able to share or counties were able to share equipment with each other, you know, to help to help kind of cover up cover issues that arise from the hurricane when people couldn’t get certain places, and they can each work together. So that’s been there.
Justin Daniels 15:28
So, Ryan, from your perspective, and it’s interesting, you brought up about the disinformation about elections, because obviously, we’re seeing that in spades with COVID, the same type of thing is happening. And I’m just curious, given, you know, your historical perspective, when did was it really in 2018, where it really started to come in focus where whoever last was taking issue with the integrity of the elections, because regardless of whatever your political party is, our democratic election is really what makes us as a country unique, and the more that we erode that institution, we don’t respect those results, or say that they’re accurate and truthful, literally, we’re undermining what makes this country unique.
Ryan Germany 16:07
Yeah, that’s that’s a that’s a great point, Justin. And I don’t know, if 2018 is when it started. I mean, the answer is probably no, that it probably has legs before that. But but it does feel like that, at least from the, from where I was sitting Secretary of State’s office in Georgia, that it really, it really kind of took off then. And, you know, I think I do think that you candidates can certainly disagree with certain state policies. You know, that’s, that’s a big reason why why people run or certain offices, change policies, they don’t like, um, but I think, you know, to go from there, to like, Oh, this is why even you shouldn’t trust the election results, or the election was stolen. I mean, that’s a huge leap. And it did seem like people kind of went there in 2018. You know, I mean, from my perspective, or not, or not a good reason. And I really do get to someone told me recently, they brought it up after, after the 2012 2012 election. In Ohio, there was a group of people who felt very strongly that, oh, the election was stolen there. Here’s all the security issues that we had was when Mitt Romney was running against President Obama in 2012. And it went, it went to the point of I think there’s rational hearings and things like that about stuff in Ohio. But I don’t remember hearing about that. And I think the difference is when the candidate kind of, you know, jump agrees with with that sort of thing. I think it gives it more legs and legitimacy than it would if it was just kind of, you know, concerned citizens. And the candidate says, No, I don’t I don’t think that that really has that level of legitimacy. But I think that’s a difference. And I think candidates have that responsibility. But you can certainly there’s things in the law, if you disagree, if you believe that there’s evidence that the election result is not accurate. There’s there’s processes in the law for that, whether it’s a recount, which we did last year, whether whether it’s an election contest, which President Trump out and which are filed, you know, not infrequently, there, there are those processes, and people are certainly welcome to go through them. But you know, the end of them, I do think, you know, candidates have a special responsibility to to accept the results of their election. And I do feel like, like you were saying, Justin, we used to see that the people that they would accept the results, and move on. I think one thing that we’ve got a net is post 2018, in Georgia and post 2020. In Georgia, you know, it’s been, I think, pretty lucrative for people not to accept the results of the election, you can raise a lot of money off of that you can raise your political profile for future ones. And I think as long as that’s the case, I think, unfortunately, we’re gonna we’re going to keep seeing it. And so from an election official perspective, when we talk to counties, and in our office, we talked about, okay, given that, like, let’s assume that’s going to be the reality going forward, what do we need to have in place, kind of from election system perspective, to basically, you know, minimize, minimize that it used to be, we want to have things to basically make the losing candidate comfortable with the fact that they lost, it seems like, you know, that’s not going to happen. So what do you have to really kind of fight those those claims after the lunch,
Justin Daniels 19:35
so the days of a stiff whiskey in a trip to the spa, after maybe losing the election have given away to what we have now, unfortunately, I mean, I hope I hope not but but but I think we’re planning for that
Jodi Daniels 19:47
you had mentioned before around the absentee ballots, and kind of joking about some of the uniqueness that comes across who was there obviously often paper ballots, and we talked about the security around the machine. Can you share? Yeah, what can you share around the security measures for the paper ballots?
Ryan Germany 20:05
Yeah, um, absentee ballots are definitely harder to secure than person. And even and even an in person voting. Now, God, we have paper ballots, remember it we didn’t used to, but now it prints out the ballot, and then you scan that. And that and that paper ballot is is your ballot. So, but absentee ballots are a little bit are a little bit different. Um, and it was a big difference with COVID. Right, the use of absentee ballots went went tremendously up, which was, I think, a good thing in the sense that loading in a pandemic was going to look a little bit different. So the fact that more people utilize that option than had previously, I think it’s a good that if that option was there, but they are harder to secure. When you show up in person to vote, you’re at your precinct, you show your ID, you go vote, drop your ballot in the scanner, I compare it a little bit, I played baseball growing up, my dad would always tell me, and obviously the best thing to do is hit you hit a hit a line drive and the gap. But if you can’t do that, it’s better to hit a ground ball and a pop up because a pop up that there’s just a catch, and you’re out the ground ball field rested, catch it, give it to the throwing hand, make a good throw, the first baseman has to has to catch it and make sure it’s put on put on there’s just a lot more things that have to happen. Correct. Um, and I think in person voting is kind of a pop up, it’s, it’s easier to secure. And absentee voting is more like a brown ball for baseball fans. People know, the vast majority of time, all of those things happen correctly, even on a ground ball. But there are more things that a county the county has to do for absentee ballots, and then you’ve got to enjoy the we’ve got absentee ballot application, you’ve got to you’ve got to receive the application, you’ve got to match it to the to the correct voter, you’ve got to verify the voter signature before you approve the application. That is said that I’ll talk about how that changed. But that was the process in 21, then you send out the absentee ballot mail, it’s gotta gotta make sure you send out the right ballot, you got to, you know, it’s got to get to the voters DIRECT address in the mail. And other than has to, you know, vote it in a timely fashion and return it and make sure it gets back to where it where it needs to be. And then the voter and the county has to verify the the the the signature again on the after Jamboree to make sure that it’s they’ve You know, it matches the voter. And each and all of those things have to happen. So I so I think that’s a harder process to secure. And I like the fact I was just reading the headline this morning that added support for photo ID requirements for any type of voting isn’t is increasing. And the legislature this past year said, even for absentee, we’re going to have an ID requirement. The way I like the way they did it for most people is just going to be writing down your driver’s license number. So that you know you don’t have to, you don’t have to make a make a copy or make a scan or anything like that of your ID but but I liked it that goes to I like it. Because I think for election officials in the county, they don’t really want to be doing subjective processes. I mean, they prefer objectivity, and that there’s a level of subjectivity signature matching. So I think go into a more objective and Id based requirements, especially because Georgia had a really successful automatic voter registration program where when people get a driver’s license, they’re automatically registered if they’re eligible, unless they unless they decline, I think it’s going to it’s going to help with some of this insecurity map process, which will help increase confidence and results. Well thank you for that. I
Justin Daniels 23:49
guess the way that we like to finish up with all of our guests is you know, Ryan, from your experience, just not just for elections, but your own personal life, give a good your best security tip that you’d like to share with our audience.
Ryan Germany 24:00
Um, I don’t know that I’m the best person to do that. You know, I think this has to do more with I think my memory than like good security, but I do end up thinking my passwords a lot. And so I think that you know, that that that can help you have to have really long passwords here. And so, I think, I think that I have I used to get annoyed when I forgot my password and had to reset it but now I just try to think of it as a you know, good security thing where I’m, I’m updating my password.
Jodi Daniels 24:33
I think it’s a great tip when you are not working and securing elections and everything else that you’re doing. workwise What do you like to do for fun?
Ryan Germany 24:41
Um, I love hanging out with my family. I love going outside and going on hikes with Claire and I really like doing that together. I like I like to play golf. We’ve made it to Braves game last week and had a great time there. We just sat out how much fun that was really, really being out. And outside whether it’s a long time ago, I hiked the Appalachian Trail. And so I still try to do try to get outside. And that’s that’s really what I what I like to do.
Jodi Daniels 25:10
Well, that sounds great if someone would like to stay in touch or to learn more about the election process here in Georgia, where’s the best place for them to
Ryan Germany 25:18
do all that? Oh, let’s see the best place you can go to our Secretary of State website, which is sos.ga.gov. There’s also a little bit more I think, kind of website limited to more focused on just just election system, you go to securevoteGA.com.
Jodi Daniels 25:40
Okay. Well, thank you so much. We really appreciate all the great insight that you shared.
Ryan Germany 25:44
Thanks for having me. I really enjoyed it. And good to see you guys.
Thanks for listening to the She Said Privacy/He Said Security podcast. If you haven’t already, be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes and check us out on LinkedIn. See you next time.