While recognizing that the state’s electronic voting system could be hacked, a federal judge in Atlanta ruled Monday that Georgia does not need to use paper ballots for the November election because changing systems at the last minute could be confusing for voters, Reuters reports.
“The state’s posture in this litigation—and some of the testimony and evidence presented—indicated that the defendants and state election officials had buried their heads in the sand,” U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg wrote in her order Monday. “This is particularly so in their dealing with the ramifications of the major data breach and vulnerability at the Center for Election Services, which contracted with the secretary of state’s office, as well as the erasure of the center’s server database and a host of serious security vulnerabilities permitted by their outdated software and system operations.”
Georgia is one of five states that only uses touchscreen voting machines with no paper record, and has done so since 2002.
On Tuesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a Russian agent visited election websites in Georgia’s Cobb and Fulton counties in October 2016, according to a July indictment that was part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the election. The Georgia secretary of state’s office said the agent didn’t gain access to state or county election systems.
The lawsuit was filed in 2017 on behalf of six individuals and the Coalition for Good Governance. The order denies a defense motion to dismiss the action, and a notice of appeal was filed Tuesday on behalf of defendant and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican who is running for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams in November.
“With this ruling behind us, we will continue our preparations for a secure, orderly election in November and move forward with [a bipartisan commission’s] work to responsibly upgrade Georgia’s secure — but aging — voting system,” Kemp said in a statement, the Washington Post reports. “As I have said many times over, our state needs a verifiable paper trail, but we cannot make such a dramatic change this election cycle.”
Robert A. McGuire, an attorney for the Coalition for Good Governance, told the Post that they “fully expect to prevail in the end.’’