Georgia case arguing use of electronic voting violated voters' rights, opened election to vulnerabilities, heads to trial in 2024

The plaintiffs argue the machines could impact voters' ability to effectively cast their ballots, which would be in violation of the United States Constitution.

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA
A federal judge in Georgia has set a trial date for the case on whether the state's voting machines are prone to cybersecurity issues. The plaintiffs argue that the machines could impact voters' ability to effectively cast their ballots. This would be in violation of the United States Constitution.

US District Court Judge Amy Totenberg set the bench trial date for Jan. 9, 2024. The lawsuit was filed by the Coalition for Good Governance, which is an election integrity advocacy group, and several individual voters. The plaintiffs are requesting the use of hand-marked paper ballots in place of electronic voting machines on grounds that the machines, which are made by Dominion, are susceptible to cybersecurity issues, according to Newsmax. 

The plaintiffs hoped to come up with a resolution without the need for a trial, but Judge Totenberg issued a ruling on Friday and said: "The Court cannot wave a magic wand, in this case, to address the varied challenges to our democracy and election system in recent years, including those presented in this case. But reasonable, timely discussion and compromise in this case, coupled with prompt, informed legislative action, might certainly make a difference that benefits the parties and the public."

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and members of the State Election Board are named as defendants in the suit.

The lawsuit included an expert report that detected weaknesses in the Georgia election system. As a result, a federal cybersecurity agency issued an advisory to jurisdictions utilizing the equipment. Furthermore, the report prompted certain Georgia Republicans to advocate for the abandonment of the voting machines altogether.

Additionally, it exposed a vulnerability in election equipment in a remote county in south Georgia, which led to the indictment of former President Donald Trump and eighteen other people in Fulton County on criminal charges.

The state of Georgia has been in the national spotlight since the 2020 presidential election, following claims that the Dominion voting machines allegedly malfunctioned and improperly tabulated ballots, with some Republican voters claiming it resulted in a "stolen election."

Republicans have been criticized as "conspiracy theorists," but Judge Totenberg made it clear in her ruling, according to Newsmax, that the case "does not suggest that the Plaintiffs are conspiracy theorists of any variety. Indeed, some of the nation's leading cybersecurity experts and computer scientists have provided testimony and affidavits on behalf of Plaintiffs' case in the long course of this litigation."

The activists believe that, among other issues with the election process, voters are unsure if the barcode that the scanner reads truly reflects their choices. They claim that a large number of voters also neglect to review the human-readable portion, which prevents effective audits.

J. Alex Halderman, an expert witness for the plaintiffs and computer scientist at the University of Michigan, analyzed Dominion voting equipment and found flaws that he said might be used by malicious parties.

He claims that, in January 2021, a computer forensics team hired by Trump associates took data and software from election equipment in Coffee County, Georgia, and transmitted it to an unidentified number of people, increasing the risks already associated with those vulnerabilities.

A software upgrade intended to fix those vulnerabilities will not been installed by the state in advance of the 2024 Presidential Election, citing the impracticability of updating all equipment by that date.

Attorneys for the election officials have maintained that the state takes numerous precautions to ensure the integrity of its electoral system and that no election system is without vulnerabilities.

Judge Totenberg said in the ruling that even if she were to side with the plaintiffs, she couldn't order the state to implement a paper ballot system. However, the judge said that there are "pragmatic, sound remedial policy measures" she can order the state to adopt which could include eliminating QR codes on ballots and having scanners read human-legible text; using a broader scope and number of election audits; and implementing essential cybersecurity measures and policies recommended by leading experts, according to the network.

There will be no jury, since the Jan. 9 trial will be a bench trial.
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