Paper Ballot Ruling in Georgia Appealed to 11th Circuit

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 21, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Georgia officials are appealing a ruling for a lawsuit that alleges the state's electronic voting system is vulnerable to hackers.

In Curling v. Kemp, a federal judge said the state should implement a new, more secure electoral system. But she stopped short of ordering the state to use paper ballots to backup the system in the meantime.

According to experts in the case, the state's system is especially prone to attack because there is no paper trail to preserve votes. The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals will decide whether that matters.

Subject to Attack

The Coalition for Good Governance filed the suit, and the state asked Judge Amy Totenberg to dismiss. The judge, however, said the plaintiffs had sufficiently claimed the electronic system was subject to cyberattack.

In their appeal, state officials argue the complaint violates governmental immunity. David Cross, the plaintiffs' attorney, said the appeal is "borderline frivolous."

Charles Bullock, a professor of political science, told Courthouse News that Georgia will overhaul its election machines. He said it was only a question of when.

"By 2020, we'll be using different equipment, whether that's a scanned paper ballot or an electronic machine with a paper receipt," he said.

Hacking History

Georgia is one of 14 states that use only electronic voting machines without paper backups. It is the most populous state using electronic machines in statewide elections.

But election-hacking has become a hot-button issue, especially since the revelations about Russian hackers meddling in the last presidential election.

In Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp formed a commission to look at new voting technology with a paper trail. He has been sensitive about the issue because he rejected federal offers to secure his state's voting after the Russia affair.

Later, he accused the Department of Homeland Security of hacking into his office computers. He is now the Republican nominee for governor.

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