sunny.png
Saturday July 11th, 2020 11:38AM

Judge weighs overhaul of 'archaic' Georgia election system

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

ATLANTA (AP) — 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whether the state, which plans to implement a new voting system statewide next year, must immediately abandon its outdated voting machines in favor of an interim solution for special and municipal elections to be held this fall.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.

But lawyers for Fulton County, the state's most populous county that includes most of Atlanta, and for state election officials argued that the state is in the process of implementing a new system, and it would be too costly, burdensome and chaotic to use an interim system for elections this fall and then switch to the new permanent system next year.

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.

The plaintiffs had asked Totenberg in August to force Georgia to use hand-marked paper ballots for that election. While Totenberg expressed grave concerns about vulnerabilities in the voting system and scolded state officials for being slow to respond to evidence of those problems, she said a switch to paper ballots so close to the midterm election would be too chaotic. She warned state officials that further delay would be unacceptable.

But she seemed conflicted Friday at the conclusion of a two-day hearing.

"These are very difficult issues," she said. "I'm going to wrestle with them the best that I can, but these are not simple issues."

She recognized that the state had taken concrete steps since her warning last year, with lawmakers providing specifications for a new system, appropriating funds and beginning the procurement process. But she also said she wished the state had not let the situation become so dire and wondered what would happen if the state can't meet its aggressive schedule for implementing the new system.

The request for proposals specifies that vendors must be able to distribute all voting machine equipment before March 31, which is a week after the state's presidential primary election is set to be held on March 24. Bryan Tyson, a lawyer representing state election officials, told the judge the state plans to announce the new system it's selected in "a matter of days."

Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer science and engineering professor, testified Friday that the state election system's vulnerabilities and that the safest, most secure system would be hand-marked paper ballots with optical scanners at each precinct.

Four county election officials, three of whom will oversee elections this fall, testified that it would be difficult to switch to hand-marked paper ballots in time for those elections. They cited difficulties getting enough new equipment, as well as challenges training poll workers and educating voters. They also said they'd have trouble paying for the switch unless the state helps.

The two groups of plaintiffs agree that the whole system is flawed and has to go. They also believe the ballot-marking devices the state plans to implement have many of the same problems, and they plan to challenge those once the state announces which vendor has won the contract. But they disagree about what the interim solution should be.

The plaintiffs represented by Brown are asking the state to use hand-marked paper ballots along with its existing election management system and to use the ballot scanners it currently uses for paper absentee and provisional ballots for all ballots.

The plaintiffs represented by Cross want the state to implement its new election management system in time for the fall elections and to use ballot scanners along with paper ballots.

Totenberg did not say when she would rule.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Online Headlines - Georgia News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge weighs overhaul of 'archaic' Georgia election system
A federal judge says 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 right to vote is protected
5:03AM ( 9 minutes ago )
LEADING OFF: Home run streaks, Bochy's goodbye in San Diego
LEADING OFF: Home run streaks, Bochy's goodbye in San Diego, Milwaukee's aching arms, Tomás back in big leagues
4:42AM ( 30 minutes ago )
Thousands defy police ban, march in Hong Kong district
Thousands of protesters are marching in a Hong Kong district despite police warnings that their presence would spark confrontations with local residents
3:52AM ( 1 hour ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Myriad election systems complicate efforts to stop hackers
Senate report highlights state role in overseeing elections, but should the federal government have more responsibility in securing elections?
2:14AM ( 2 hours ago )
Taliban vows future Afghanistan won't be terrorists' hotbed
Trump administration's point man at the U.S.-Taliban talks says he's satisfied with the militant group's pledge to keep terror groups from using Afghanistan as a launch pad for attacks against the West, but not everyone is convinced
2:11AM ( 3 hours ago )
US, Guatemala sign agreement to restrict asylum cases
The Trump administration has signed an agreement with Guatemala Friday that will restrict asylum applications to the U.S. from Central America
2:10AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP National News
Smugglers offer cash to troops, others to drive migrants
U.S. Border Patrol agents say smugglers lure troops, police and others with offers of quick cash if they drive migrants on short jaunts through a heavily secured US border zone near San Diego.
11:31PM ( 5 hours ago )
House panel asks court for Mueller grand jury material
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler has filed a petition in federal court to obtain secret grand jury material underlying former special counsel Robert Mueller's report.
11:15PM ( 5 hours ago )
US presses WTO to stop lenient trade treatment of China
US pressures WTO to stop letting China, others get lax trade treatment by claiming 'developing' status
11:12PM ( 5 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Strike by Alaska ferry workers snarls travel plans
The first strike by Alaska ferry workers in over 40 years has snarled travel plans for thousands of people during the busy tourist and fishing season
10:19PM ( 6 hours ago )
Georgia election officials accused of destroying evidence
Lawyers for election integrity advocates say Georgia officials intentionally destroyed evidence that could show unauthorized access to the state election system
9:31PM ( 7 hours ago )
Alabama GOP Rep. Martha Roby won't seek another term
Alabama Congresswoman Martha Roby is not running for reelection in 2020
5:10PM ( 12 hours ago )
AP Elections
Resumed federal executions raise death penalty's 2020 stakes
The Justice Department's announcement that it will begin executing federal death row inmates for the 1st time since 2003 raises the political stakes of an issue that has rarely been a strength for national Democrats
8:27AM ( 20 hours ago )
Renewed federal executions raise death penalty's 2020 stakes
The Justice Department's announcement that it will begin executing federal death row inmates for the first time since 2003 raises the political stakes of an issue that has rarely been one of strength for national Democrats
6:01AM ( 23 hours ago )
2020 tests if Dems can win enough black voters without Obama
The upcoming presidential campaign offers a critical test for Democrats of whether they can ever again rely on the multiracial coalition that helped propel Obama to the White House twice
5:44AM ( 23 hours ago )
General Election News
Tunisia prepares for president's funeral, new elections
Tunisia is inviting world leaders to attend the funeral for its president who died in office and preparing for a new election to replace him
4:21AM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Action on election security stalls in Congress
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is blocking election security bills in Congress, despite former special counsel Robert Mueller's warning that Russian interference is going on right now
2:15AM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Report says states have outdated voting machines
A report issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee says the Russian government directed "extensive activity" against U.S. election systems ahead of the 2016 presidential election
3:30PM ( 1 day ago )
General Presidential Election News
LEADING OFF: Home run streaks, Bochy's goodbye in San Diego
LEADING OFF: Home run streaks, Bochy's goodbye in San Diego, Milwaukee's aching arms, Tomás back in big leagues
4:42AM ( 30 minutes ago )
Thousands defy police ban, march in Hong Kong district
Thousands of protesters are marching in a Hong Kong district despite police warnings that their presence would spark confrontations with local residents
3:52AM ( 1 hour ago )
8 dead, 60 hurt as quakes shake northern Philippine isles
Two strong earthquakes hours apart struck a group of sparsely populated islands in the Luzon Strait in the northern Philippines, killing at least eight people, injuring about 60 and causing substantial damage
3:33AM ( 1 hour ago )
Betts hits 3 homers off Paxton as Red Sox rout Yankees again
Mookie Betts hit three home runs against James Paxton in the first four innings in a 10-5 rout over the New York Yankees, whose starting pitchers have stumbled this week in historic fashion
3:28AM ( 1 hour ago )
Man arrested for knife assault ahead of Hong Kong protest
Hong Kong police say a man has been arrested in connection with hurting another man with a knife in the area where a pro-democracy protest is scheduled to kick off
3:17AM ( 1 hour ago )