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Judge rules Georgia voting machine case must go to trial

Voting tags at St. Augustine College are on display as Chicago voters hit the polls on April 2, 2019. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune/TNS)
November 21, 2023

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg recently ruled that a lawsuit against Georgia’s use of electronic voting machines must go to a non-jury trial in January.

According to 11 Alive News, the federal judge’s ruling will require Georgia’s secretary of state to defend the state’s utilization of electronic voting prior to the upcoming presidential primary election in the state. The lawsuit questions whether Georgia’s current system of computerized voting is safe or whether it is vulnerable to potential hacking incidents.

According to The Associated Press, Totenberg’s recent 135-page ruling stems from a lawsuit that was originally filed by activists in Georgia who want the state to use paper ballots instead of electronic voting machines.

The Associated Press reported that the lawsuit was first filed in 2017 against touchscreen voting machines that the state had used for roughly 15 years. The lawsuit was later altered to challenge the new election system the state purchased in 2019, claiming that the new electronic system was vulnerable.

While the state had requested that the judge rule against the lawsuit before the case went to trial, Totenberg said there were “material facts in dispute” that would require a trial. As a result, the federal judge scheduled a bench trial for the case that will begin on Jan. 9. Totenberg also encouraged both parties to work together to resolve the matter.

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“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,” she stated. “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.”

According to 11 Alive News, critics of Georgia’s electronic voting machines have alleged a security breach in Georgia’s Coffee County that was recorded on a surveillance video that showed unauthorized individuals scanning and copying secure voting software and distributing some of the information online.

Totenberg wrote that the “2021 Coffee County election equipment breach … presents a substantial risk that … votes will not be counted as cast.”

Critics have argued that incidents such as the one documented in Georgia’s Coffee County can result in invalid markings on electronic voting machines. In Totenberg’s ruling requiring Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office to take part in January’s civil trial, Totenberg wrote that the “defendants fail to identify a single cybersecurity expert who endorses the current configuration of Georgia’s (ballot marking device) system.”

Regardless of the end result of the January trial in Georgia, Totenberg made it clear that the court “does not have the legal authority” to fulfill the “broadest relief” request that the plaintiffs have made in the case.

“Even if Plaintiffs prevail on their substantive claims, the Court cannot order the Georgia legislature to pass legislation creating a paper ballot voting system or judicially impose a statewide paper ballot system as injunctive relief in this case,” Totenberg said.

Nevertheless, Totenberg explained that if the plaintiffs emerge victorious at the January trial, there are “pragmatic, sound remedial policy measures” that could either be ordered by the court or agreed upon by both parties involved.