Few states have voting machines that are simultaneously more obviously defective and more ardently defended by the state government than Georgia, where 16-year-old touchscreen systems are prone to reporting ballots cast by 243% of the eligible voters and where gross irregularities in election administration sends voters to the wrong polling places or sends co-habitating husbands and wives to polls in different cities to cast their votes.
Georgia's voting catastrophe was overseen by Brian Kemp, who, as Secretary of State, also oversaw one of the nation's most notorious voter-suppression efforts, leading up to his election as governor, beating out Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams in 2018 an election he himself was overseeing, by a squeaker of a margin that could have easily gone Democratic if the machines' defects or the voter suppression had been just a little less egregious.
Now, a District Court Judge has ordered that Georgia's voting machines be scrapped, and that the state prepare to hand-count paper ballots in March 2020 if new machines can't be sourced, tested, and installed in time for the primaries.
Judge Amy Totenberg did not order a paper-ballot election, however, holding out the hope of new digital systems being installed in time. She wrote that "Georgia’s current voting equipment, software, election and voter databases, are antiquated, seriously flawed, and vulnerable to failure, breach, contamination, and attack" and said that a full trial over the state's electoral rigging would likely be found in favor of disenfranchised voters, due to "the mountain of voter testimony showing that these vulnerabilities have a tangible impact on these voters’ attempts to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot and have their vote counted."
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has approved a new screen-and-paper balloting system from Dominion Voting Systems of Colorado, who won a $106m contract for machines that comply with specifications established by the state's GOP legislature. Dominion's systems are not considered secure by the activists who brought the initial legal challenge to the existing systems, and introduce new vulnerabilities, including the use of QR-codes for the paper ballot that cannot be read or verified by voters.
The plaintiffs will also challenge the use of the Dominion systems in state elections.
Perhaps alluding to the fact that the plaintiffs have said they plan to challenge the new system in court, Totenberg quoted baseball legend Yogi Berra, writing: “The past may here be prologue anew — it may be ‘like déjà vu all over again.’”
The state, she wrote, has “previously minimized, erased, or dodged the issues underlying this case.” For that reason, she wrote, she devoted space in her 153-page order to meticulously recounting the history of the case and related actions, or inaction, by the state “to ensure transparency for the future.”
Judge: Georgia must scrap old voting machines after 2019 [Kate Brumback/AP]