Georgia Officials to Appeal Paper Ballot Ruling to 11th Circuit

ATLANTA (CN) — Georgia election officials  are appealing a federal judge’s decision to allow voters to continue a challenge to the state’s practice of relying solely on electronic voting machines in its elections.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp filed a notice of appeal Tuesday evening after U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg ruled the Coalition for Good Governance had validly stated a claim that the machines used in the state’s election are vulnerable to hacking.

The group, representing voters across the state, had hoped Totenberg  would issue a preliminary injunction and order the state to use paper ballots during the November midterm election.

Totenberg declined to do so due to the lack of time to get the new system in place before November 6.

Accoring to the underlying lawsuit, cyber security experts have warned that the state’s 27,000 direct-recording electronic voting machines are exceptionally vulnerable to hacking because they lack a physical paper trail backup.

In allowing the Coalition’s lawsuit to go forward, Totenberg encouraged the state to implement a new, more secure electoral system before the 2020 elections.

In filing their notice of appeal, state officials argue Totenberg should have dismissed the suit on the grounds that it violates the government’s entitlement to immunity and improperly subjects the state to suit and discovery.

David Cross, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, on Thursday called the state’s appeal “borderline frivolous,” and warned that granting its request to dismiss his client’s suit would have “a chilling effect” on voters and voting-rights groups.

Even if the state is successful in its arguments before the 11th Circuit, experts say that major changes to Georgia’s electoral system are inevitable.

Citing “public outcry and bad publicity,” Dr. Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia, told Courthouse News that he anticipates an overhaul of Georgia’s election equipment is simply a matter of time.

Bullock said that the only question is whether that change will take place via the legislature or the courts.

“By 2020, we’ll be using different equipment, whether that’s a scanned paper ballot or an electronic machine with a paper receipt. It seems to me that the individual who becomes governor, whoever it is, is going to push this through the legislature if the courts don’t decide first. Kemp has gone on record saying it needs to be done,” Bullock said.

But Bullock doubts that public outrage about Georgia’s election security practices will translate into activism at the polls in November.

“For a very small component of the population, they’re paying attention to this. But a majority haven’t even gotten their minds wrapped around the election. I doubt we’ll see more absentee ballots cast. We might see an increase in early voting, but whether you can attribute it to this case? I think that might be difficult,” Bullock said.

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