Judge Weighs Whether to Force Georgia to Use Paper Ballots

By Kate Brumback, Associated Press

Georgia allowed its election system to grow “way too old and archaic” and now has a deep hole to dig out of to ensure that the constitutional right to vote is protected, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg said Friday.

Now Totenberg is in the difficult position of having to decide whether the state, which plans to implement a new voting system statewide next year, must immediately abandon its outdated voting machines in favor of an interim solution for special and municipal elections to be held this fall.

Election integrity advocates and individual voters sued Georgia in 2017 alleging that the touchscreen voting machines the state has used since 2002 are unsecure and vulnerable to hacking. They’ve asked Totenberg to order the state to immediately switch to hand-marked paper ballots.

A law passed this year and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp provides specifications for a new system in which voters make their selections on electronic machines that print out a paper record that is read and tallied by scanners. State officials have said it will be in place for the 2020 presidential election.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued Friday that the current system is so unsecure and vulnerable to manipulation that it cannot be relied upon, jeopardizing voters’ constitutional rights.

“We can’t sacrifice people’s right to vote just because Georgia has left this system in place for 20 years and it’s so far behind,” said lawyer Bruce Brown, who represents the Coalition for Good Governance and a group of voters.

Addressing concerns about an interim system being burdensome to implement, plaintiffs’ lawyers countered that the state put itself in this situation by neglecting the system for so long and ignoring warnings. Lawyer David Cross, who represents another group of voters, urged the judge to force the state to take responsibility.

“You are the last resort,” he said.

Georgia’s voting system drew national scrutiny during the closely watched contest for governor last November in which Kemp, a Republican who was the state’s top election official at the time, narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams.

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