Federal judge bars Georgia from using electronic-only voting system

Federal judge bars Georgia from using electronic-only voting system

WASHINGTON – A federal judge on Thursday barred Georgia from using its direct-recording electronic voting machines beyond this year, adding that the state should have hand-marked paper ballots prepared if its new system isn’t in place for the 2020 presidential primaries.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg’s decision comes after a request to move the state to hand-marked paper ballots. Totenberg criticized years of inaction from the state, writing in her ruling that Georgia officials “have been slow and poorly equipped in tackling the security and functionality challenges afflicting its current voting system.”

“Georgia’s current voting equipment, software, election and voter databases, are antiquated, seriously flawed, and vulnerable to failure, breach, contamination, and attack,” she wrote.

Totenberg also noted that although Georgia is now moving in the right direction, she is doubtful that it can implement a new system before the March 24, 2020, presidential primary.

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Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger last month announced that the state purchased a new voting system that has touchscreen computers and also prints paper records. The system cost $106 million and Raffensperger said it would be implemented before next year’s primary.

Last year, ahead of the state’s 2018 gubernatorial election, Totenberg declined to make a similar ruling that would have required an immediate switch to hand-marked paper ballots.

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate last year, has been outspoken about voting rights and fighting voter oppression in the state. Abrams lost the race to Republican Brian Kemp, who was then the Georgia secretary of state.

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On Tuesday, Abrams announced an initiative called Fair Fight 2020, which aims to staff and fund voter protection teams in battleground states across the country ahead of the 2020 elections.

The new program comes in lieu of Abrams running for president, something she had repeatedly said she was considering earlier this year. 

During an interview with The New York Times earlier this week, Abrams said she’d asked two things of all the Democratic 2020 presidential candidates she’s met with so far: “One is that they make voter suppression their number one issue. And two, that they make Georgia a top priority because it is a battleground state.”

Contributing: Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal and Associated Press

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