Georgia Election Officials Ordered to Keep Paper Backups of Voter Rolls

The order does not necessitate new training for poll workers and only requires that a paper copy of the voter list be updated at the end of the in-person early voting period to mirror data in the electronic pollbook.

People wait to vote in Georgia’s primary election at Park Tavern in Atlanta on June 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

ATLANTA (CN) — A federal judge presiding over a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s voting system ruled Monday that every polling place in the Peach State must have a paper backup of the list used to check voter eligibility as a safeguard in case electronic pollbooks malfunction on Election Day.

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg, a Barack Obama appointee, said the backup plan requiring state election officials to provide paper copies of a list showing who is registered to vote and whether they’ve submitted an absentee ballot before Nov. 3 is essential to protecting the right to vote in Georgia.

In a 67-page ruling, Totenberg said the plan will help prevent long lines at the polls caused by difficulties with the state’s new voter check-in tablets called Poll Pads.

The decision will help mitigate “the real potential harms that would otherwise likely transpire at precinct polling locations grappling with the boiling brew created by the combination of new voting equipment issues and old voter data system deficiencies,” Totenberg wrote.

Voting integrity activists requested the order in August as part of a 2017 lawsuit against state election officials. The lawsuit originally challenged the integrity of Georgia’s old voting machines but has changed into a fight against the state’s new voting system, which the activists say features many of the same security vulnerabilities.

The Coalition for Good Governance, a plaintiff in the case, argued that numerous instances of malfunctioning electronic Poll Pads caused voters to wait in long lines for hours at the polls during the June primary and August runoff election.

Monday’s ruling comes after a three-day hearing earlier this month.

Totenberg wrote that Georgia “has yet to work out the host of bugs afflicting its implementation of an entirely new electronic voting system” and found that there is “no indication” that voters can expect better circumstances in November.

The judge found that evidence suggests the state’s technological failures, including problems with electronic pollbooks, have resulted in eligible voters being turned away from their correct polling place or sent to the wrong precincts.

The activists produced evidence showing “a system wide problem of malfunctioning electronic PollPads” during the November 2019 elections, when six counties tested the new system, in the June primary election, and in the August 2020 runoff elections, the ruling states.

Totenberg wrote that she entered the order Monday to give election officials ample time to begin preparations to implement the paper pollbooks.

The judge pointed out that the order will not require poll workers to be trained in any new protocol and only requires that a paper copy of the voter list be updated at the end of the in-person early voting period to mirror the information in the electronic pollbook.

Georgia’s Republican secretary of state is ordered to instruct election superintendents to provide at least one paper backup to each polling place on Election Day.

Totenberg said in Monday’s ruling that she plans to issue a later order addressing the activists’ claims with regard to the voting system’s alleged security vulnerabilities. 

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