BREAKING NEWS:

Officer taken to hospital after serious crash on I-20 in DeKalb County.

On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

clear-day
59°
Sunny
H 66° L 42°
  • clear-day
    59°
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 66° L 42°
  • clear-day
    66°
    Today
    Sunny. H 66° L 42°
  • heavy-rain-day
    59°
    Tomorrow
    Chance of Rain. H 59° L 44°
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

  • Christmas season is supposed to be a time of goodwill toward men. But one family is embracing a season that comes with a football helmet to the head. >> Read more trending news  Steve Schneider created the helmet hit around the world into a tree topper for his Christmas tree, WKYC reported. The topper is animated with the Cleveland Browns’ Myles Garrett hitting Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph with his helmet. Garrett was suspended by the NFL for the hit, The Washington Post reported. Rudolph was fined for his role, the NFL said.
  • Another, separate malfunction of Takata airbags is prompting the recall of an additional 1.4 million vehicles. >> Read more trending news  The latest airbag problem has led to at least one death. Previous recalls were linked to at least 24 deaths worldwide. The faulty airbags use a propellant that can deteriorate over time when exposed to moisture and explode too fast or not fully inflate. Most of the recalled inflators use ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion and inflate the airbags. But the chemical deteriorates when exposed to high temperatures and humidity and can burn too fast, blowing apart the canister designed to contain the explosion. The ruptured inflator can cause metal fragments to strike the driver or passengers. Underinflated airbags can not properly protect passengers in an accident. A driver in Australia died as a result of the faulty airbags. Another driver in Cyprus was injured because of them. The number of affected vehicles in the United States is unknown. Many of the vehicles with the airbags were installed in the 1990s and are no longer on the road, officials said. BMW is warning drivers of some older 3-series vehicles to stop driving them. About 8,000 definitely have faulty inflators and should be parked, BMW said. Another 116,000 3-Series cars from the 1999 to 2001 model years can still be driven but will be inspected. BMW intends to replace faulty inflators with new ones. The company says owners will be notified when parts are available. The recall also includes vehicles built by Audi, Honda, Toyota and Mitsubishi. Which models were not immediately known. Audi was trying to determine whether any 1997 to 1999 model year A4, A6, A8 or TT vehicles were affected. Toyota and Honda were working to determine which models had the issue. Mitsubishi indicated 1998 to 2000 Montero vehicles were impacted. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will ask Thursday for the drafting of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. >> Read more trending news  Update 12 p.m. Dec. 5: President Donald Trump slammed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday after she announced the House will move forward with articles of impeachment against him. “Nancy Pelosi just had a nervous fit,” Trump said. “She hates that we will soon have 182 great new judges and sooo much more.”  Pelosi told reporters Thursday that the president’s actions since being sworn into office left Democrats with “no choice but to act.” Pelosi previously declined to pursue articles of impeachment against Trump, but she said Thursday that the surfacing of a whistleblower complaint filed against Trump over the summer changed her mind. The whistleblower in August filed a complaint about concerns over Trump’s attempts to get Ukrainian officials to investigate one of his political rivals, former vice president and 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden. Update 11:45 a.m. Dec. 5: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is speaking with reporters after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that the House will move forward with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Update 11 a.m. EST Dec. 5: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is speaking with reporters after announcing earlier Thursday that the House plans to move forward with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Counsels for Republicans and Democrats will present impeachment evidence Monday at a 9 a.m. hearing, according to Politico and Axios. The Judiciary Committee will also hold a hearing to mark up the articles of impeachment, according to Axios. Update 9:50 a.m. EST Dec. 5: Officials with President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign slammed the decision announced Thursday morning by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to draft articles of impeachment against Trump. “The facts are uncontested,” Pelosi said at a news conference Thursday morning. “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security.” Marc Lotter, director of strategic communications for Trump’s 2020 campaign, said in a tweet that Democrats decided to impeach the president “over ‘feels’ not ‘facts.'” Campaign manager Brad Parscale accused Democrats of trying to “take the decision of who should be president out of the hands of voters.” “Impeaching the President has always been their goal, so they should just get on with it so we can have a fair trial in the Senate and expose The Swap for what it is,” he said. “Speaker Pelosi, Chairman (Adam) Schiff, and Hunter Biden should testify, and then we can get back to the business of our country.” Democrats have been building a case for impeachment against Trump based on his decision to ask Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of several Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination. Trump has denied any wrongdoing. Update 9:30 a.m. EST Dec. 5: White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats “should be ashamed” after the California politician announced plans to move forward with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.  “(Trump) has done nothing but lead our country - resulting in a booming economy, more jobs & a stronger military, to name just a few of his major accomplishments,” Grisham wrote Thursday morning in a tweet. “We look forward to a fair trial in the Senate.” Pelosi said Thursday morning that Trump’s decision to ask Ukraine for an investigation into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, were “a profound violation of public’s trust.” “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of national security by withholding military aid and crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival,” she said. Update 9:20 a.m. EST Dec. 5: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday morning that the House will move forward to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. “The facts are uncontested,” she said at a news conference Thursday morning. “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security.” The announcement came one day after House Democrats held a closed-door meeting on impeachment, according to Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree. The House Judiciary Committee also held its first hearing Wednesday on impeachment. “Our democracy is what is at stake,” Pelosi said Thursday. “The president leaves us no choice but to act.” The historic announcement came as Democrats push toward a vote, possibly by Christmas. Original report: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will give an update Thursday morning on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. The California Democrat plans to make the announcement from the Speaker’s Balcony Hallway at 9 a.m. EST. On Wednesday, the impeachment inquiry moved to the House Judiciary Committee as three of four law professors considered experts in impeachment from across the country testified they believe Trump’s action toward Ukraine constitutes bribery. The three professors – Pamela Karlan, Noah Feldman and Michael Gerhardt – were called by the Democrats. The fourth professor testifying Wednesday, Jonathan Turley, called by Republicans, did not agree. House Democrats launched the inquiry in September to investigate whether Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter, and their connection to a Ukrainian energy company in exchange for an invitation to the White House and a military aid package. Read more here or here. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Disney has released the latest trailer for its series of remakes. This time “Mulan” is getting the live-action treatment. The film, which stars Yifei Liu in the title role, follows Mulan’s story as she takes the place of her father in the Chinese army, disguised as a man to fight to defend her country, CNET reported. >> Read more trending news  Watch the trailer below: The film, which will hit theaters on March 27, also stars Donnie Yen as Commander Tung, Jet Li as the emperor and Jason Scott Lee as Bori Khan.
  • A restaurant in Columbus, Indiana, is hoping to ease the issues for customers with dementia and their families. Amazing Joe’s has rolled out a new menu for Sunday afternoons called “Forget-Me-Not,” WISH reported. Nick Grams, the restaurant’s managing partner, had first-hand knowledge of the struggles dementia patients and their families have when going to restaurants. His mother died from the condition this year. >> Read more trending news  Grams said it was always a challenge between forgotten orders and loud noise. Once a month on Sunday afternoons, he will offer a quieter room with limited menus so dementia sufferers can enjoy dinner out, WISH reported. The menu has only seven items, many of them finger foods, The Tribune in Columbus reported. The staff has also received training on how to deal with their special customers. Grams told WISH that he hopes other restaurants follow his lead in Indiana. The town has also started an initiative that’s called Dementia Friends, The Tribune reported. The program was started by Thrive Alliance in an effort to help make the town more dementia-friendly. They’ve worked with first responders by training them on how to deal with someone with dementia during an emergency, the newspaper reported.
  • An Oklahoma man was arrested this week on two different felony charges after investigators say he knowingly transmitted HIV to at least two victims. >> Read more trending news  Court papers state Benjamin Whitney had consensual sex with the victims and didn’t tell them he had HIV. In one case, the victim reportedly said Whitney explicitly told him he was not infected with the virus. The victim didn’t know he had it until he started feeling ill shortly after their sexual encounter and was tested by the Tulsa County Health Department. In the second case, the victim reportedly didn’t know he had it until he was approached by others who told him he may want to get checked. Court papers state Whitney was diagnosed with HIV in 2014 and received counseling regarding his test results, so he was aware he had it. Whitney was charged in July and was arrested on Tuesday. Read more here.