Two months before Election Day, a judge asked state officials a deceptively straightforward question: How had they repaired a data breach in Georgia’s voter-registration system? They didn’t know. This exchange, cited in court filings last week, underscored the ambiguities surrounding Georgia’s unusually close Nov. 6 election. A series of lawsuits exposed significant failings in how the state managed this year’s voting, while also casting doubt on the integrity of future elections. One judge found that “repeated inaccuracies” in registration data kept qualified voters from casting ballots. Witnesses described chaotic scenes at polling places, where voting supervisors inconsistently applied rules on provisional balloting and other matters. And the plaintiffs in one case claimed that election officials did nothing to protect against “known vulnerabilities,” such as the data breach discovered in 2017, that left their computer system open to manipulation and attack.
The Georgia secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections, did not respond to a request for comment. Attorneys for state and county election officials declined to discuss the lawsuits. In court documents, they disputed the severity and pervasiveness of problems that had emerged since Election Day.
Elections have never been flawless enterprises. Eighteen years ago, hanging chads — scraps of paper clinging to punch cards — threw a presidential race into turmoil. Every election generates complaints of computer malfunctions, balky voting machines, or human error.