As Georgians prepare to cast their ballots in a nationally watched gubernatorial race, the security and reliability of the state’s election system remains a point of concern for many voters and security experts. Polls show that a large percentage of Americans believe there’s a concerted effort underway by foreign entities to undermine American Democracy and promote discord, using everything from fake Facebook accounts to Russian Twitter bots. But perhaps nothing strikes fear in the hearts of voters in Georgia and across the country more than the notion that their ballots could be changed by hackers. In the metro area, elections officials in Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Gwinnett, Henry, Clayton and Fayette counties told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution they are working with the Secretary of State’s office to ensure every ballot cast in November is counted and reported accurately. They say their systems and processes are battle tested and secure. Still, there’s a growing clamor for more precautions. The state’s weaknesses have been well documented. Georgia uses electronic voting machines and is one of only five states that don’t have paper backups that can be used to audit results.
More than 20 experts from Georgia Tech, MIT, Princeton and other top-tier institutions signed a letter to Secretary of State Brian Kemp last year expressing “grave concerns” about Georgia’s election system and urging the state to adopt paper ballots. That process is underway, but no changes are likely before November.
Also feeding into voters’ apprehension is mounting evidence that Russia attempted to hack into election systems across the U.S. in 2016. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation found one suspected operative had visited Cobb and Fulton counties’ election websites, though no confidential information was obtained, the Secretary of State’s office said.