Federal Judge Bans Paperless Voting Machines in Georgia for 2020 Elections

August 15, 2019 by Dan McCue

A federal judge on Thursday ordered Georgia to stop using its “unsecure … and grossly outdated” voting machines after this year and to have hand-marked paper ballots at the ready if new, more secure machines aren’t in place by the state’s presidential primary.

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg’s 153-page ruling allows 310 local elections planned for this fall to go forward using the state’s 17-year-old voting machines, despite her concern that “the threat of election interference has only grown” since the plaintiffs in the underlying case filed their lawsuit.

The plaintiffs, which include election integrity organizations and individual Georgia voters, argued that the paper touch screen voting machines Georgia has relied on since 2002 are vulnerable to hacking, tampering and malfunctions, undermining fundamental voting rights.

They were hoping Judge Totenberg would immediately ban the old machines and make the use of hand-marked paper ballots mandatory in all 159 of Georgia’s counties.

But the judge noted the Georgia legislature has approved specifications for a new voting system, and that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has committed to spending $107 million to upgrade the state’s voting system in time for its presidential primary election on March 24.

The new equipment will include paper ballots along with touchscreen voting machines.

She also partly sided with lawyers for the defendants, which included state and local election officials, who argued it would be too costly and burdensome to use an interim system for elections this fall and then switch to the new permanent system next year.

Totenberg said using hand-marked paper ballots was at least feasible for the special and municipal elections that will be held in Georgia this year, but she expressed reservations about the state’s ability to manage an interim system while also trying to transition to a new one.

Georgia’s voting system has been under a microscope since Republican Brian Kemp, then the state’s top election official, narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams to become governor during last year’s midterm election.

Election officials said there’s no evidence that the state’s voting system has ever been compromised, and they said the transition to a new voting system purchased from Dominion Voting Systems, the nation’s second-largest elections machine company, should satisfy concerns about election security going forward.

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