by WorldTribune Staff, November 15, 2023
A lawsuit filed by activists who want Georgia to ditch its electronic voting machines in favor of hand-marked paper ballots will get a trial without jury, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg issued a 135-page ruling on Friday in the long-running lawsuit which questions whether Georgia's electronic voting system has major cybersecurity flaws that amount to a violation of voters' constitutional rights to cast their votes and have those votes accurately counted.
The lawsuit was filed by the Coalition for Good Governance and several individual voters against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and members of the State Election Board.
The electronic voting system Georgia currently uses was purchased from Dominion Voting Systems in 2019 and implemented statewide in 2020.
An expert report as part of the lawsuit identified vulnerabilities in the election system which led a federal cybersecurity agency to issue an advisory to jurisdictions that use the equipment and has prompted some Georgia Republicans to call for abandoning the machines.
University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman, an expert witness for the plaintiffs, examined Dominion voting machines and identified vulnerabilities that he said could be exploited by bad actors. He has said the risks presented by those vulnerabilities were exacerbated when a computer forensics team hired by Trump allies copied data and software from election equipment in rural Coffee County in January 2021 and distributed it to an unknown number of people.
Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer in the Secretary of State's office, earlier this month dismissed Halderman's findings as "hypothetical scenarios that can't work."
Georgia officials said they will not install a software update meant to address those vulnerabilities ahead of the 2024 election, saying it would be impractical to update all of the equipment by then.
Dominion has been a particular target of Trump supporters while the Left insists that any criticism of Dominion is a 2020 election "conspiracy theory."
Judge Totenberg made clear in a footnote in her order that the evidence in the Georgia 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 lawsuit was initially filed in 2017 and targeted the paperless touchscreen voting machines that Georgia had been using for 15 years. It was then amended to challenge the election system the state bought in 2019, with claims that the new system has similar vulnerabilities.
The judge set a Jan. 9 bench trial, which means there will be no jury. She also suggested that the two sides work together to reach a resolution.
Even if she ultimately rules in favor of the plaintiffs, Judge Totenberg wrote that she can't order the state to implement a paper ballot system.
The judge said there are "pragmatic, sound remedial policy measures" that she could order or that the parties could agree upon, including: 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.
"We look forward to presenting our full evidence at trial and obtaining critical relief for Georgia voters," said David Cross, an attorney for some of the individual voters in the lawsuit. "But we hope this decision will be a much-needed wakeup call for the Secretary and SEB, and finally spur them to work with us on a negotiated resolution that secures the right to vote in Georgia."
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