A federal judge on Thursday ordered the state of Georgia to stop using paperless touchscreen voting machines ahead of the 2020 election, citing security concerns.
In a 153-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg said that hand-marked paper ballots must be used if a new system isn’t in place by next year’s presidential primaries.
Election integrity advocates argued in a 2017 lawsuit that paperless touchscreen voting machines in use since 2002 were vulnerable to hacking and could not be audited.
However, in a decision issued last year, Totenberg determined that switching to a paper ballot system for the 2018 and 2019 elections would have proved to be too complicated logistically.
The older machines have been described by the judge as “unsecure, unreliable and grossly outdated technology,” and will be used one last time in 2019 for the statewide municipal and county elections scheduled for November.
“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 her order on Thursday.
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 a paper ballot that includes a summary of the voter’s selection plus a QR code that is scanned and stored. The 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 chief 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 that election — a clear conflict of interest — but 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 large bloc of mostly minority voters.
Abrams has spent the majority of her post-election career dedicated to voting rights and election security in the state.