Georgia needs new voting technology. That was the basis, at least in part, for a meeting at a Cobb County library Wednesday of state lawmakers, local election officials, a cybersecurity expert and political party representatives. They’re part of the Secure, Accessible and Fair Elections (SAFE) Commission appointed by Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp. It’s tasked with looking at how best to phase out Georgia’s current voting machines first introduced in 2002. “I think the time is late,” said Democratic state Sen. Lester Jackson, who sits on the commission. “But I think this is absolutely necessary, that we have a valid voting process for 2020. One of the most important elections of all time.”
Articles about voting issues in Georgia.
An effort to trash Georgia’s electronic voting machines got underway Wednesday amid disagreements over how to make the state’s elections secure and accurate. The first meeting of a group that will recommend a replacement voting system showed divides over whether Georgia should use pen-and-paper ballots or touchscreen machines to print ballots. Brought together by Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Secure, Accessible & Fair Elections (SAFE) Commission will review options for the state’s next voting system and then make a recommendation to the General Assembly before next year’s legislative session. A new voting system could be in place in time for the 2020 presidential election.
A federal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s system of removing inactive voters from the registration rolls was formally withdrawn on Tuesday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Ohio’s similar voter “purge” policy did not violate federal law. In a 5-4 decision, the high court held that Ohio is not violating the National Voter Registration Act by sending address-confirmation notices to registered voters when they fail to vote in a federal election — and then eliminating their names from the rolls if they don’t respond and fail to vote in the next two federal elections over a four-year period. The decision reversed a lower court ruling that found Ohio’s policy violated the voter-registration law by using non-voting to trigger the confirmation notices.
Georgia’s Secretary of State, now running for governor, is pushing to replace the state’s voting machines after years of declaring the current system safe. Brian Kemp established the Secure, Accessible and Fair Elections Commission in April to study a replacement for Georgia’s current electronic touchscreen system, which does not create an auditable paper record, after efforts to get replacements installed in time for this year’s elections failed. The group will meet for the first time June 13, and will review options including touchscreens that print paper ballots, and ballots marked by hand with a pen.
Before this November’s election, a federal judge will have to decide whether Georgia’s electronic voting machines are too hackable to be used any longer. A lawsuit pending in federal court is trying to force the state government to immediately abandon its 16-year-old touchscreen machines and instead rely on paper ballots. The plaintiffs, a group of election integrity activists and voters, say the courts need to step in to safeguard democracy in Georgia. Legislation to replace the state’s electronic voting machines failed to pass at the Georgia Capitol this year, and tech experts have repeatedly shown how malware could change election results. But Georgia election officials say the state’s digital voting system is safe and accurate. Secretary of State Brian Kemp recently recertified the machines after tests showed they correctly reported election results.
Georgia: Georgia is voting on insecure machines in today’s primary. This group is suing | The Washington Post
When Georgia voters head to the polls for the state’s primary today, they’ll cast their ballots on aging electronic voting machines that government officials and security experts agree are easy to hack. But if a long-shot federal lawsuit succeeds, they could vote in a much more secure way come November: On paper. As the intelligence community warns against a repeat of the kind of digital interference we saw in the 2016 elections, a nonpartisan advocacy organization and a group of Georgia voters are asking a judge to compel the state to abandon its electronic voting machines in favor of paper ballots before the midterm elections. The electronic machines produce no paper vote record, making them virtually impossible to audit. The plaintiffs want the state instead to switch to a hand-marked paper ballot system, which experts widely regard as safer because the results can be easily verified.
Georgia: Judge grants request for docs linked to Atlanta mayoral vote probe | Atlanta Journal Constitution
A Fulton County judge ordered local elections officials to make available documents linked to a state investigation into potential irregularities of the December runoff that yielded a narrow victory for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall issued an order this week that county officials should grant Georgia Secretary of State’s Office investigators “immediate access” to ballots, recaps, tally sheets, voter applications and other documents related to the Dec. 5 contest. A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican candidate for governor who oversees Georgia elections, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News last week that investigators requested records to conduct a forensic review of the contest.
A bill passed by Georgia’s legislature that would have criminalized unauthorized access of computer systems and allowed companies to “hack back” in defense against breaches was vetoed on May 8 by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. The veto came after many weeks of opposition from information security firms and professionals, as well as major technology companies—including Google and Microsoft executives, who expressed concern that the bill would actually make it more difficult to secure computer systems. Given that Georgia is the home of Fort Gordon, an Army base that serves as home to units of the Army’s Cyber Command and to parts of the National Security Agency, and that Georgia has become home to an increasing number of cybersecurity firms as a result both of the Army/NSA presence and research at Georgia’s universities, Deal realized after feedback from the industry that the bill could have resulted in inadvertent damage.
Some big legal guns are squaring off in a federal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s use of all-electronic voting systems. A major national law firm has deployed attorneys to represent plaintiffs in the suit on a pro bono basis, going up against a more locally based defense team that includes Georgia’s former governor. John Carlin, former assistant U.S. attorney general in charge of the National Security Division, and his partner in the Washington, D.C., office of AmLaw 35 national law firm Morrison & Foerster, David Cross, are representing three Georgia voters who claim their fundamental constitutional right to vote is endangered by the systems. On the other side, representing the State Election Board, its members and Secretary of State Brian Kemp are John Frank Salter Jr. and former Gov. Roy Barnes of the Barnes Law Group. Prior to serving as DOJ’s highest-ranking national security lawyer, MoFo’s Carlin served as chief of staff and senior counsel to former FBI director Robert Mueller III. In that role, he helped lead the agency’s evolution to meet growing and changing national security threats, including cyber threats, according to his firm bio.
Georgia: Nonprofit Sues Georgia, Seeking to Prevent Voting on All-Electric Systems in November | GovTech
Georgia’s Secretary of State office is facing a lawsuit over its use of an all-electronic voting system with no paper ballot verification backups, one of five states that currently use such a system. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia is holding proceedings for Donna Curling v. Brian Kemp. Plaintiff attorney David Cross said his clients are asking the judge for a preliminary injunction to stop Secretary of State Brian Kemp from using Georgia’s current all-electronic voting system in the November elections. The lawsuit stems from the alleged 2016 discovery of cybersecurity vulnerabilities in Georgia’s Direct Recording Equipment (DRE) voting system. The plaintiffs claim that the Secretary of State’s ignored repeated warnings from cybersecurity experts and told them, in essence, to go away, according to a copy of the amended complaint. The complaint asserted that there is an “incompatibility between the functioning of the current electronic voting system and the voters’ right to cast a secret ballot and have that vote accurately counted.”