Georgia Hearing on Voting Machines Interrupted by Porn, 9/11 Photos

Courtney Parker votes on a new voting machine in Dallas, Ga., last year. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

ATLANTA (CN) — Images of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, porn and swastikas interrupted a federal hearing in a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s voting machines Friday, bringing the live Zoom session to a temporary halt.

While a voting machine company executive gave testimony before U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg and approximately 100 participants and observers, two people began posting videos and still images by sharing their screens with the video conference, the Associated Press reported.

One of the people responsible for the interruption reportedly had the username “Osama.”

The court quickly ended the Zoom session but resumed the hearing about an hour later, changing its protocol so that observers had to be admitted to the call by court staff from a virtual waiting room.

The hearing in the fight between election integrity activists and Georgia’s election officials began Thursday and continued Friday, with attorneys for the Coalition for Good Governance arguing that the Peach State’s new electronic voting machines are unaccountable, unverifiable and vulnerable to security risks.

The organization sued Governor Brian Kemp and county and state election officials in 2017, originally challenging the integrity of the state’s old voting machines. The ongoing legal battle has changed into a fight against Georgia’s new $107 million voting system, which the organization has argued features many of the same security issues as the old system and may be even more vulnerable to hacking and “malicious manipulation.”

The plaintiffs have asked Totenberg to order the state to use hand-marked paper ballots for the November general election. But election officials argued Friday that it would be too costly and difficult to switch from using electronic voting machines to paper ballots with so little time remaining before Election Day.

In 2018, the Coalition for Good Governance argued that Georgia’s touchscreen voting machines were vulnerable to hacking because they did not provide any way to audit and confirm that votes were being recorded correctly. The organization requested an injunction ahead of the midterm election to force election officials to switch to hand-marked paper ballots.

Although Totenberg admonished state officials for failing to address problems with the voting system and burying “their heads in the sand,” the judge denied the request, finding that moving to paper ballots with less than two months before the election was too difficult and costly.

Georgia lawmakers passed legislation last year authorizing the purchase of a new election system and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced in July 2019 the state’s intention to purchase new ballot-marking devices from Dominion Voting Systems that print a paper ballot.

The new machines print a paper ballot with a summary of the voter’s selections which can be read by a human. The printed ballot also includes a QR code that must be read by a scanner to tally the votes, leaving voters unable to determine if the QR code accurately reflects their selections.

“Even if a voter is are able to satisfy himself or herself that the text summary actually reflects the preferences that the voter expressed when voting on the BMD touchscreens, this design still requires voters simply to trust that the non-human readable QR code matches the text summary. The voter has no way to confirm that this is true,” the activists argued in a supplemental complaint filed last October.

With less than five weeks before the start of in-person early voting in Georgia, it is unclear when a ruling will be made in the case.

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