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Privacy Plus+: Georgia (voting machines) on our minds

Privacy, Technology and Perspective

Georgia (voting machines) on our minds: This week, a federal judge in Atlanta, Georgia wisely ordered the state to be ready to use paper ballots for the 2020 election, if it fails to meet a tight deadline to implement an entirely new voting system.  You can review a copy of the 153-page ruling by clicking on the link that follows:

https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.gand.240678/gov.uscourts.gand.240678.579.0.pdf

In describing Georgia’s current voting system, key phrases that jump out of the Court’s order are:

  • - “Outdated and vulnerable software;”

  • - “Susceptible to manipulation and malfunction;” and

  • - “Not reliably secure.”

Last year, the Court ruled that the plaintiffs’ preliminary evidence had established a substantial likelihood of their prevailing on their claims that Georgia’s failure to remedy “known security breaches and exposures compromising Georgia’s electronic voting machines and election servers” violates their 14th amendment substantive due process and equal protection rights. Curling v. Kemp, 334 F.Supp.3d 1303, 1322 (N.D. Ga. 2018). 

Since then, Georgia has selected a new “BMD” election system, said to include an auditable trail.  While the adequacy of this new BMD system is not (yet) before the Court, the Court explains that Georgia awarded the low bidder, Dominion Voting Systems, Inc., the contract for a sum of $106,842,590.80.” (Order at Page 9), and mentions, in a note, that “no elector can visually review and confirm whether the bar code [associated with the presumptive paper trail] accurately conveys the votes actually cast.” (Order at Page 9, n. 10) We have previously written about Dominion, and the fact that it has no privacy policy posted on its website.  Adequate or not, the Court concludes that there is not enough time for it to be rolled out and operational across Georgia’s 159 counties for the November 2019 elections, and there is serious question about whether it can be ready in time for the 2020 primaries. So the Court has ordered the State of Georgia not to use the existing GEMS/DRE system after 2019, and to be ready with a contingency plan – likely involving paper ballots – in the event that the new BMD system will not be completely rolled out and ready in time for the 2020 primaries.  (Significantly, the Court has also ordered the State to prepare a plan ready to implement by January 3, 2020 to address errors and discrepancies in Georgia’s voter registration databases.)  (Order at pp. 137 -153.)  

Now, we just hope that all of the other jurisdictions that rely on electronic voting machines (including Dallas County, Texas), will also stop using voting machines that either have no paper records or useless paper records (like ones that have bar codes that clearly are not human-readable).  In order have a meaningful way to audit electronic ballots, a human must be confirm on paper the results of each electronic voting record. Therefore, human-readable paper ballots that produce verifiable audit trails are necessary to ensure the integrity of our election results.

Again, we post the following link that will direct you to the voting tool provided by Verified Voting (“VV”), a nonprofit organization, which will show you the jurisdictions which should follow Georgia’s court-ordered lead by using paper ballots in 2020 – preferably by choice, if necessary by court order: https://www.verifiedvoting.org/verifier/.

Election integrity matters.  As powerfully noted in an amicus brief submitted by EPIC and joined by 31 other legal scholars and technical experts, the “secret ballot safeguards privacy, freedom of association, and democratic values.”  A link to that brief follows:

https://epic.org/amicus/voting/curling/Curling-v-Raffensperger-EPIC-Amicus.pdf.

It is time to be fierce about preserving our democracy from outside influence or pure negligence. 

Hosch & Morris, PLLC is a Dallas-based boutique law firm dedicated to data protection, privacy, the Internet and technology. Open the Future℠.

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