In a 153-page ruling issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg ordered Georgia to stop using paperless touchscreen voting machines ahead of the 2020 election, citing security concerns. If a new system isn’t in place by the presidential primaries, hand-marked paper ballots must be used.
Election integrity advocates filed the lawsuit in 2017, arguing the current paperless touchscreen voting machines in place since 2002 were not secure, vulnerable to hacking, and could not be audited. Last year, the same judge issued a similar decision that would have blocked the use of the outdated machines ahead of the 2018 midterm election.
The older machines have been described by Totenberg as “unsecure, unreliable and grossly outdated technology,” and will be used one last time in 2019 for the statewide municipal and county elections scheduled for November.
Totenberg cautioned that switching to a paper ballot system by the 2019 elections would have proved to be too complicated logistically.
“The Court remains concerned, based upon the entirety of the record evidence, about the State’s capacity to manage a transition to paper ballots for the 2019 elections while overseeing and undergoing a simultaneous transition to the newly enacted voting system during this time,” Totenberg wrote in the order.
In late July, Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger announced the state’s new elections vendor will be Dominion Voting Systems. The newer touchscreen machines will print out a paper ballot that includes a summary of the voter’s selection plus a QR code that is scanned and stored. This system will be in place by the time the presidential primary rolls around in March 2020.
The integrity of Georgia’s voting system came into question last year during the midterm elections. Republican Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state and the state’s foremost elections officer, narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams in the gubernatorial race, which was plagued with voting issues. Not only did Kemp, as secretary of state, oversee the election itself — a conflict of interest — he also oversaw a major voter roll purge, which led to tens of thousands of citizens losing their right to vote ahead of the election, for inconsequential reasons. The move was seen by critics as a way to disenfranchise a mostly minority bloc of voters
Abrams has spent the majority of her post-election career dedicated to voting rights and election security in the state.