County election officials across Georgia say it’s too late to switch to paper ballots in the upcoming elections, despite warnings that hackers could easily penetrate the state’s antiquated electronic voting system and that Russia could unleash a new wave of disruptive cyberattacks. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg is expected to rule any day on whether the state must switch to old-fashioned paper ballots. Her ruling would come in response to a year-old lawsuit by citizen activists. They argue that the state’s current system of relying on electronic voting machines that lack a paper backup is “hopelessly compromised” and paper ballots are necessary to ensure public confidence in the results. Georgia is just one of many states dealing with the fallout of the U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia worked to influence the 2016 campaign and has compromised — or tried to compromise — state election systems across the country to disrupt the 2018 midterms elections. But interviews and court statements from Republican and Democratic county officials and from state election officials drew the same response: It’s just too late to make the switch.
Activists’ push for paper has been propelled by security concerns stemming both from a breach in Georgia’s elections system and worries that Russia’ will repeat cyberattacks that interfered with the 2016 elections.
In 2017, Politico reported that a cybersecurity professional named Logan Lamb had been able to gain access to Georgia’s elections servers months before the 2016 election and download personal data of about 6.7 million voters from a statewide voter registration database.
… But at least one other state made a last-minute change. After Virginia’s electronic voting machines were decertified in September 2017, elections officials in more than 20 counties and localities acquired and set up a new system in time for that year’s election.