Hoosiers Sue to Replace Paperless Indiana Voting Machines

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) – Indiana voters filed a federal lawsuit Thursday seeking the decertification of voting machines they claim are vulnerable to hacking and do not leave a verifiable paper trail, in hopes of replacing the machines ahead of the 2020 election.

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

The nonprofit Indiana Vote by Mail and five voters filed the 25-page lawsuit in Indianapolis federal court against the Indiana Election Commission and Secretary of State Connie Lawson.

The complaint specifically targets the paperless system that uses direct-recording electronic, or DRE, machines, which do not have a “voter-verified paper audit trail” providing a viewable record that a ballot was counted accurately.

The DRE machines are used in 58 of Indiana’s counties, while the remaining 34 counties use systems with a paper trail.

The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys William Groth of Macey Swanson and Jim Harper with Harper & Harper, seek an injunction to have the DRE machines replaced prior to the 2020 election by machines that have a verifiable paper trail.

“Mounting evidence indicates that foreign actors, including agents of the Russian government, have tried and will continue to try to hack into American voting machines,” Groth said in a statement. “Cybersecurity experts agree that the most important steps that states can take is to adopt machines with a paper trail and to conduct random, risk-limiting audits. Unfortunately, most Indiana counties do not take either of these steps.”

DRE machines are not new to scrutiny or criticism. In May 2018, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a report warning of the dangers of those systems.

The report was commissioned as part of an investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 presidential election and listed DRE machines as an “ongoing vulnerability.”

“Paperless Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines––machines with electronic interfaces that electronically store votes (as opposed to paper ballots or optical scanners)––are used in jurisdictions in 30 states and are at highest risk for security flaws,” the report states. (Parentheses in original)

The repot goes on to recommend that outdated and vulnerable machines be “rapidly replaced.”

Indiana lawmakers have not been blind to the potential dangers of DRE machines. In April, they passed a law to replace the machines with more secure voting apparatuses.

The bill, known as Senate Enrolled Act 750, requires every Indiana county to stop using voting machines that lack a verifiable paper trail by 2030.

However, Thursday’s lawsuit calls that timeframe unacceptable.

“There is a concrete and non-trivial risk that voters in those Indiana counties that continue to use DRE voting systems without a [paper trail] will be less likely to cast an effective vote, and to have that vote counted, due to the fact that votes cast on DRE voting systems may be altered, lost, corrupted, diluted, or effectively not counted on the same terms as Indiana voters who cast their ballots using voting equipment with a [paper trail], which unlike DRE voting systems, enable a meaningful manual recount procedure and/or a risk limiting audit,” the complaint states.

Harper, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said “the time to act is now.”

“Indiana lawmakers have recognized that we have a problem, and they had identified the solution,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, they have decided not to implement that solution until 2030.”

The Indiana Election Commission did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.

Similar DRE machines were ordered to be retired in Georgia after a federal judge ruled they must be replaced in time for the March 2020 primaries.

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