On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

cloudy-day
48°
Mostly Cloudy
H 58° L 44°
  • cloudy-day
    48°
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Cloudy. H 58° L 44°
  • cloudy-day
    58°
    Today
    Mostly Cloudy. H 58° L 44°
  • rain-day
    52°
    Tomorrow
    Rain. H 52° L 50°
Listen
Pause
Error

News on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

State & Regional Govt & Politics
Judge considers requiring paper ballots for Georgia elections
Close

Judge considers requiring paper ballots for Georgia elections

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg is wrestling with whether to order an immediate switch to paper ballots.

Judge considers requiring paper ballots for Georgia elections

As Georgia election officials selected a new voting system Monday, a federal judge is wrestling with whether to immediately require paper ballots before the state’s current electronic voting machines are set to be used for the last time in this fall’s elections.

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg will decide whether Georgia’s existing touchscreen voting system is too insecure to continue using, a decision that could affect 310 elections planned in cities and counties this fall.

Starting with next year’s presidential primary election, voters will use new voting equipment that combines touchscreens and printed-out paper ballots. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Monday that Dominion Voting won the state’s $107 million contract.

Totenberg said in court Friday that Georgians could be “sitting ducks” because of hacking vulnerabilities in the state’s current electronic voting system, which lacks a paper ballot that could be used for audits and recounts. She didn’t immediately issue a ruling Friday after two days of testimony from voters, election officials, computer science experts and cybersecurity contractors.

But Totenberg appeared reluctant to throw out the state’s 17-year-old voting machines this close to November’s elections.

She said “it might be extra challenging” to change to hand-marked paper ballots, then go through another transition to the state’s new voting system before the presidential primary election March 24.

“These are very difficult issues,” Totenberg said at the close of Friday’s hearing. “I’ll wrestle with them the best that I can, but these are not simple issues.”

In addition, Totenberg is weighing whether Georgia election officials intentionally destroyed evidence. Lawyers for election integrity advocates alleged in a court filing last week that election officials erased Kennesaw State University servers after a security hole exposed voters’ information. The Secretary of State’s Office has denied the allegations.

Totenberg said the decision by the General Assembly this year to purchase a replacement voting system showed the state was willing to make improvements. She had written in an order last fall that officials “had buried their heads in the sand” about vulnerabilities with the state’s direct-recording electronic voting machines.

“They obviously knew they can’t stick with the DRE,” Totenberg said Friday. “It is a system that was allowed to grow way too old and archaic.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that legislators fell far short of addressing Totenberg’s concerns.

Witnesses listed a variety of ways Georgia’s election system remains compromised:

  • Malware could alter elections on a statewide scale if Georgia’s elections system were penetrated at the Secretary of State’s Office.
  • Websites of the Secretary of State’s Office were penetrated by a cybersecurity company, which obtained administrator rights and system configurations. The office, which hired the company to identify risks, implemented protections to address vulnerabilities, according to testimony from state election officials.
  • Contractors for the state’s elections company, Election Systems & Software, create and code Georgia’s electronic ballots from their homes. The Secretary of State’s Office then loads those ballots into election computers and distributes them across the state.

“The vulnerabilities go way beyond what we thought before,” said David Cross, an attorney for a group of voters who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “Their defense is to keep saying, ‘There’s no evidence of a hack.’ They just haven’t looked.”

Four county election administrators said in court they remain confident in Georgia’s 27,000 electronic voting machines.

“The DREs worked extremely well,” Chatham County Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges said. “We’ve never lost any votes.”

While election administrators said they could make a quick switch to paper ballots if Totenberg ordered them to, it would be difficult.

Counties would need to find money from their local governments to buy optical scanning machines and paper ballots. They’d have to scramble to go through government procurement processes in time. They’d have to train poll workers and educate voters.

But the plaintiffs said they’ve proved that voters face an unreasonable burden on their constitutional right to vote. Election results could be altered, and no one would ever know because there’s no paper ballot record.

The state’s election system could become contaminated by malware through USB drives that election officials move from internet-connected computers to disconnected election servers, computing experts said in court. Security precautions, such as reformatting USB drives to remove potentially dangerous files, wouldn’t necessarily remove sophisticated malware.

Even after Georgia installs its new voting system, the plaintiffs will allege that it remains unsafe because it still puts touchscreen computers between voters and their ballots. But attorneys for the Secretary of State’s Office said audits of paper ballots will ensure that the voting system is producing accurate results.

Totenberg didn’t say when she will make a ruling in the case.

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at www.ajc.com/politics.

Read More

News

  • Seven people were shot at a Houston flea market Sunday. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call around 7:41 p.m., KPRC reported. Investigators said no one was critically injured. Some injuries are believed to have been caused by ricochet of gunfire. A man is in custody, KPRC reported. This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
  • NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others will be remembered Monday at a memorial service at the Los Angeles Staples Center. Twenty thousand people are expected at the venue Monday afternoon to remember those killed last month when the helicopter they were riding in crashed into a hillside in Southern California. The service was scheduled Monday, 2-24-20, because the date is significant for Bryant’s family. For a time in his career, Bryant wore a No. 24 jersey. Gianna, who played basketball as well, wore a No. 2 jersey on her basketball team. Bryant’s wife and Gianna’s mother, Vanessa Bryant, said in an Instagram post that she and Kobe Bryant were together for 20 years. Tickets for seats in the Staples Center, which also incorporated the numbers 2 and 24, went for $224 for some tickets, $224 for two ticket packages in certain sections and $24.02 for other tickets. The proceeds from the ticket sales will go to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation. According to the organization’s website, the foundation 'exists to further Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s legacy through charitable endeavors in sports.” Here’s what you need to know if you want to watch the service:  What time: The service begins at 10 a.m. PT. That’s 1 p.m. ET. What channel: Several networks will be airing the service, among them CNN, E! News and BET. Will it be livestreamed: The memorial will be livestreamed on several sites. You can stream it through ETLive.com and CBS All Access, as well as the ET Live app on Roku, Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV. ESPN will be streaming it here. ABC News, NBCNews.com, Hulu Live TV, Sling TV, Yahoo Sports and Facebook Watch will also livestream the event.
  • A family has to bury another loved one after a man was shot during a viewing at a funeral home in Arkansas. Forrest City police said the shooting happened outside a funeral home off South Washington Street on Friday afternoon. Officers said the shooter, Christopher Reed, and victim, Curtis Allen, were cousins and were arguing about a dispute from back in 2014. Allen’s sister said she was outside when the shooting happened. “Your own family would do something so horrific on one of the most horrific days of someone’s life,” said Rozette Allen. Rozette Allen said her family traveled from Illinois to pay respects to their father Friday afternoon. She said Reed and her brother had unresolved issues from the past. She said Reed went up to her brother to shake his hand outside the funeral home but Curtis Allen wanted to be left alone. “He started pulling out a gun from his bookbag, and I’m like, ‘He has a gun, he has a gun,’ and he started shooting,” said Rozette Allen. Benjamin Wynne works at Miles J. Kimble Mortuary and Cremation. He said he was inside when he heard gunshots. “When he went through, ran through the funeral home, I immediately called police,” said Wynne. Police said Reed shot Curtis Allen multiple times. Allen was taken to the hospital and died Sunday. Officers arrested Reed and charged him with first-degree murder, aggravated assault and other charges. Rozette Allen said she will miss her brother, whom she described as a loving father of four kids. “I love him keep watching over us, watch over all of us,” said Allen.
  • A man was arrested after he attempted to rob a dog walker, shot him in the leg and then stole the dog walker’s dog, Daytona Beach police said. Officers said they responded around 2:30 p.m. Sunday after receiving a call for help. Investigators said a man was walking his dog when Dwayne Foster approached him with a handgun and told the man to empty his pockets. The man refused and Foster fired several shots, with one striking the man in the leg, police said. The man was treated on the scene by paramedics and is in stable condition. Officers said they were able to track Foster down, along with the victim’s dog, as well as the gun. Charges are pending against Foster.
  • A 21-year-old woman from Pittsburgh fell around 80 feet from a cliff near Breakneck Bridge at McConnells Mill State Park on Sunday afternoon, fire officials confirmed. Dispatchers said the call came in around 3:23 p.m. Fire officials said the woman was flown to a hospital and has head and back injuries. The woman was with a group of Slippery Rock University students. No other information was immediately available.
  • A rider fell off a float Sunday during a Mardi Gras parade. The rider fell from the lower level of float 16B during the Thoth parade, WDSU reported. The rider was taken to a hospital in stable condition. Two people have died during parades this week. A man was struck and killed Saturday night when he was caught between two sections of a tandem float. Earlier in the week, Geraldine Carmouche, 58, died in a similar accident involving a tandem float. In response to the deaths, city officials have banned all tandem floats for the remainder of the Carnival season.