Little-known KSU building houses elections nerve center

Name of Publication: 
Marietta Daily Journal
Excerpt of Article: 
Michael Barnes, director, right, and Merle King, executive director, talk about the columns of duplicating computers, left, that are currently extracting information about Tuesday s election from each county s memory cards to update the approximately 5.5 million active voters list in preparation for this month s runoff elections. ‘What we need to know is who voted — not how they vote — and, for a primary, we need to know what party they participated in,’ Barnes said. <br> Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
Michael Barnes, director, right, and Merle King, executive director, talk about the columns of duplicating computers, left, that are currently extracting information about Tuesday's election from each county's memory cards to update the approximately 5.5 million active voters list in preparation for this month's runoff elections. ‘What we need to know is who voted — not how they vote — and, for a primary, we need to know what party they participated in,’ Barnes said.
Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Little known KSU building houses elections nerve center

by Jon Gillooly
08.06.12 - 12:47 am

KENNESAW — Inside a nondescript, two-story house on Kennesaw State University’s campus is the Center for Election Systems, an independent academic research institution that verifies, certifies and supports Georgia’s statewide election system.

“They provide an invaluable service to the state of Georgia,” Secretary of State Brian Kemp said. “This investment of taxpayer dollars provides a safe, secure and uniform election system that Georgia can be proud of.”

The KSU-owned, eight-employee center is fully funded by its one client: the Georgia Office of the Secretary of State, which pays it $704,000 a year for its services.

The center was founded in 2002 as a unit of the College of Science and Mathematics at KSU as part of then-Secretary of State Cathy Cox’s rollout of a uniform voting system.

“We had an uncoordinated voting system in the state of Georgia,” said Merle King, the center’s executive director. “Each county could select whatever voting system they could afford, which in many of the poor counties was hand-counted paper ballots.”

Following the 2000 election, Cox organized a commission to look at voting issues in Georgia.

“We had a large number of spoiled ballots in the 2000 election,” King said. “Really more than Florida, but the election wasn’t close in Georgia. But the recognition was that we had dodged a bullet, so to speak — that if that kind of scrutiny had come to the state of Georgia, we would have fared poorly.”

The state spent $54 million in rolling out a uniform system in 2002.

“The secretary recognized that there would be additional support needs for that,” King said. “Initially, the thought was we would train poll workers. The realization once the system started to come online was this was much larger and much more complicated than had been envisioned, so we were asked to take on the auditing of the vendor’s warehouse operations.”

King, who was chair of KSU’s Computer Science Information Department at the time, opened the election center in 2002 with three employees in KSU’s continuing education facility on the east side of Interstate 75.

“We started auditing the warehouse operations of the vendor, making sure invoicing was correct,” he said. “If they stated they shipped 500 units to Fulton County, we verified the bill to make sure those units were in fact shipped.”

Once the auditing was done, the state asked the center to test the technology, as required by the state election board.

“We ended up testing every piece of equipment after it was delivered to the counties. At the time, it was about 16,000 touchscreen units, 160 servers, 8,000 encoders and 600 optical-scan units. That’s become a routine part of our operation here,” King said. “The great thing is, the confidence that the election officials and the voters get is that every piece of gear that you vote on, it’s been wrung out, it’s been looked at by us at least five times.”

When an election takes place in Georgia, it might be a statewide election as on July 31, but it’s also 159 coordinated elections within each county. Those elections will contain races that may solely pertain to the county or may include races that are regional or at the state or national level as well.

“The ballot in Fulton County needs to look as close as it properly can to the ballot in DeKalb County,” said Michael Barnes, the center’s director. “If you’re going to have a uniform system, not only does the hardware need to be uniform, but also so does the display. … You have a centralized component that’s building the ballots that you see.”

In late 2003, the center began preparing the election databases, also known as ballot building.

An election database maps precincts, races and candidates and provides for the storage of votes and eventual reporting for that election. The ballot is derived from the election database. Months before Election Day, the center begins preparing databases that produce the electronic printed and audio ballots used during an election.

There are specific election board rules that outline such things as how large a candidate’s name can appear on the ballot, the font size and the placement of a candidate’s name.

“By having a centralized building component, you have one spot where you can control that to make sure what’s seen by a voter in Fulton County in display, in receptiveness, in feel, looks the same as it does in Camden County,” Barnes said.

The center builds ballots for 157 of the 159 counties to date, with only Cobb and Richmond counties doing it themselves.

“When we’re doing this in some cases it’s in a time window that’s extremely small,” Barnes said. “The election ended (Tuesday). Voters are anticipating to be voting on a ballot a week from Monday. You have no idea who’s in the runoff. You can’t guess. You have recounts going on. I calculated this morning that out of 159 counties we have 124 counties that have some form of a runoff, so that means we have to prepare 124 databases. Not only do we have to prepare them, they have to be built, they have to be viewed, they have to be checked, and then when we’re finished saying it’s good, they’re only given at that point to the counties for them to proof, because it’s the responsibility of the county to make sure that it’s correct.”

Barnes spent election day on Tuesday entering the office at 6 a.m. and leaving at 3 a.m. Wednesday.

“Counties were forgetting what their password was to sign on to the upload site, or they forget what their supervisor card password is that allows them to shut down the voting machine in order to get the totals off of it,” he said. “Those are the top questions that we’re answering, sort of to help the county … get to their end goal.”

During the presidential preference primary, King and Barnes drove a server down to Muscogee County at midnight after that county’s server failed. The center also does forensic analysis for the Secretary of State’s office for investigations, pulling the logs of the machine to check it against what was reported.

“We’re like ambulance drivers,” King said. “The very best night is when you don’t do anything.”

The center prepares sample ballots for the Secretary of State’s office and has emergency ballot printing capabilities as well.

Another important function of the center is the preservation of institutional knowledge.

“As we’ve gone through different administrations — Cathy Cox, Karen Handel, Brian Kemp and whoever comes down the road — what’s very important is that you preserve that organizational knowledge of how all this works together,” King said. “Often in elected offices there’s turnover for a variety of different reasons, and this is a very stable work environment out here.”

King Day commemorated by dreamers and doers

Name of Publication: 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Excerpt of Article: 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

7:40 p.m. Monday, January 16, 2012

Speeches by a poet in Kennesaw and a Georgia  Supreme Court Justice in  Sandy Springs and parades in Stone Mountain and in the namesake's Auburn Avenue neighborhood were among the ways the2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday  was observed in metro Atlanta Monday.

Poet Nikki Giovanni headlined the celebration at Kennesaw State University's annual MLK event while justice Harold D. Melton gave the keynote address at Sandy Springs' City Hall. Volunteers worked on a  variety of community service projects sponsored by Hands on Atlanta  as residents turned out in a variety of ways to commemorate the holiday.

As great as the music, speeches and spirit were Monday morning at Ebenezer Baptist Church for the 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Observance, there was a also a great sense of symmetry.

In the 44th year after King’s death, speaker after speaker – most of whom lean Democrat -- stumped for four more years for the country’s 44th president, Barack Obama.

“For the first time in the history of America, the most important person of color does not throw a ball, catch a ball, act, sing or dance,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, encouraging the audience to go out and register to vote. “When we leave here today, lets do our work, lets develop a plan, and lets not get tired. And we will indeed, change the world.”

Some 11 months away from what promises to be a tough re-election bid for Obama, who is facing sharp attacks from the right and growing concerns from the left, speakers on Monday focused on re-energizing the base.

The speakers reminded the crowd – the overflow of which listened to the service at the original church that King co-pastored for eight years – to not get complacent now that Obama is in the White House. They said it is time to stop just living on the legacy of King’s Dream, which has lulled so many and taken the focus off of his accomplishments.

“You don’t get killed for dreaming. You don’t get harassed by the FBI for dreaming,” said keynote speaker The Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III from Friendship -- West Baptist Church in Dallas.  “What made him dangerous is that Dr. King fought until public policy was changed. He agitated. Don’t say you in love with Dr. King if you stick with his dream and don’t wake up and push for public policy. Dr. King fought to change public policy.”

More than 2,000 attended the annual service, held in Ebenezer Baptist Church’s Horizon Sanctuary. Included among the speakers were  Gov. Nathan Deal, and fellow Republican Senator Johnny Isakson.

Isackson called the King Memorial, which he has visited three times, "a beautiful tribute to a great man." He said the monument's placement between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials is apporpriate because Kings words also shaped this country.

Deal told the audience to follow Kings example of service to others to address the work he left behind. "Too many live in a dark word of illiteracy, addiciton, poverty and crime, Deal said.

King’s sister Christine King Farris and daughter, Bernice King, presided over the three-hour event.

King, who won the Nobel Peace Prize and is first United States citizen to have a national holiday in his name, would have been 83 this year. He was born and raised in Atlanta, and many of the King Day events are centered in the King Historic District in the Auburn Avenue area.

Outside of the churches, as hundreds milled around waiting for a march to start, vendors sold t-shirts, King/Obama scrolls and plump turkey legs. Dozens of volunteers, organized by the People’s Agenda, registered people to vote, even providing access to photo ID voter identification.

“This was very inspirational. Very motivational,” said Ron Carson, who brought eight youth from a church in Dublin, Ga. “Anyone who listened to what was said today had to be inspired to want to continue the legacy of the dream. It was hard to overlook that.”

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KSU soccer heading south for summer

Name of Publication: 
Marietta Daily Journal
Excerpt of Article: 
Former McEachern standout Savannah Duet (23) will be part of the Kennesaw State soccer contingent traveling to Ecuador.
<Br>Staff photo by Mike Jacoby
by Adam Carrington
06.23.11 - 12:33 am

Kennesaw State’s women’s soccer program has established itself as one of the pre-eminent teams in the Atlantic Sun Conference, with two titles to show for their work.

Now the Owls are ready for their next big challenge.

Coach Rob King and six of his players will head to South America on Friday to conduct a two-week soccer camp at the Colegio Menor San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador. It will be a far different culture than the summer camps King and his players conduct on the Kennesaw State campus. ...

Kennesaw State’s Bagwell College of Education has collaborated with the Universidad de San Fransico de Quito to give students opportunities to study abroad and gain teaching experience and class credit at the English-speaking Colegio Menor.

And the first-time soccer camps are another way of reaching out.

“We want to put on a fantastic (camp) and be invited back,” King said. “Ecuador is a soccer-playing country, and it’s very traditional.”

King has led Kennesaw State soccer to eight seasons of 10 or more wins in his nine years at the helm. He’s also guided the Owls to three regular-season Atlantic Sun titles and two tournament championships.

© 2011
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Kennesaw State University women’s soccer team travels to Ecuador to conduct soccer camp

KSU Soccer Stadium

Coach Rob King and six student-athletes depart soon for Colegio Menor San Francisco de Quito 

KENNESAW, Ga. – (June 17, 2011) — Kennesaw State University women’s soccer coach and six KSU women’s soccer team student-athletes are making preparations to travel to Ecuador this month to conduct a soccer camp for 150 boys and girls, aged 7 to 17, at Colegio Menor San Francisco de Quito. 

The invitation to conduct the soccer camp was an outgrowth of KSU’s successful Student Teaching International Study Abroad program held in conjunction with Colegio Menor and Universidad de San Francisco de Quito. For the past several years, KSU has offered teacher preparation candidates the opportunity to gain valuable field teaching experience at the English speaking K-12 international school, Colegio Menor. 

“This soccer camp is an excellent example of Kennesaw State’s international outreach and engagement,” said KSU President Daniel S. Papp. “Our international programs are central to KSU’s academic mission, and we encourage our students to take part and get involved in these exciting projects. This Athletics project represents a unique opportunity for our student-athletes to teach others, while at the same time learn more about different cultures."  

This marks the first time any KSU student-athletes have ventured outside of the country to conduct a summer camp, which will be held June 27- July 8. The KSU contingent will be assisted by camp counselors at Colegio Menor. Approximately 150 bilingual children are expected to participate. The camp in Ecuador is sandwiched between KSU’s own summer soccer camps, so there will be no disruption for boys and girls attending camps on the KSU campus during June and July. 

“We have several education majors making the trip and two fluent in Spanish, so we’re going to be able to handle whatever comes our way,” said Rob King, head coach women’s soccer and assistant athletic director. “This is a wonderful opportunity for all concerned and appears to fit well with Kennesaw State’s mission of global outreach and service to the community. Plus, while we’re there we’re looking to expand our horizons with educational excursions for our student-athletes to the Galapagos Islands, an active volcano and the rainforest, which are all nearby.” 

In addition to King, the following women’s soccer team members are making the trip:

Caroline Austin of Peachtree City, Ga., defense — 2011 graduate, Bagwell College of Education
Sofia Blanco of Roswell, Ga., midfield — junior, biology major

Savannah Duet of Marietta, Ga., forward — senior, communication major

Lexi Hastings of Ontario, Canada, defense — junior, early childhood education major

Kristin Marietta of Douglasville, Ga., forward — senior, early childhood education major
Katie Schwartz of Fayetteville, Ga., defense — senior, biology major 

KSU’s Bagwell College of Education offers the Student Teaching International Study Abroad program, which allows students to gain 12 hours of course credit to prepare them to become better teachers. In addition to student teaching for this semester abroad, this program engages students in observations, interactions and analyses of critical and contemporary educational issues. 

Against this backdrop, students reflect on and interpret the meaning of education and schooling in a diverse culture and examine the moral and ethical responsibilities of teaching in a global environment. Student teachers take advantage of cultural trips in and around Ecuador, and the opportunity to perform a service project for the country. 

Colegio Menor San Francisco de Quito is located in the valley of Cumbaya about 15 minutes from Quito and is a private bilingual school founded in 1995. It is affiliated with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, the top private university in Ecuador with more than 5,000 students and a research station with Boston University in the Amazon and a community college in the Galapagos.

More than 1,300 students are enrolled in Colegio Menor in the four sections of the school, early childhood, elementary, middle and high school and special classes in art, music and physical education. Eighty percent of the students are Ecuadorian, with the remainder coming from the United States and other countries.

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KennesawState University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 70 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing, and a new Ph.D. in international conflict management. A member of the 35-unit University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing population of more than 23,400 students from 142 countries.

Contact: Robert S. Godlewski,, 770-499-3448

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