Electronic Vote System Escapes Court Ban

John Lister's picture

A judge in Georgia says she is "gravely concerned" that electronic voting machines could be hacked. But she says it's too late to scrap them for this year's elections.

Amy Totenberg was ruling on a lawsuit originally filed May 2017 against Georgia's Secretary of State. It called for the use of the Direct Recording Voting machines to be banned for the elections.

Among the arguments in the lawsuit were that the system doesn't create a paper trail for verifying any discrepancies; that the software on the machine could be altered or replaced without detection; and that the system makes it possible to find out which way an individual voted.

The case wasn't heard until last week when the court held a special one-day hearing, a move it said was necessary given the short time until the election.

System Has 'Serious Vulnerabilities'

In much of the ruling, Totenberg appears to agree with the points made in the lawsuit.

She was particularly critical of the time it has taken for officials to respond to concerns, saying the court was "gravely concerned about the state's pace in responding to the serious vulnerabilities of its voting system - which were raised as early as 2016 - while aging software arrangements, hardware and other deficiencies were evident still earlier." (Source: theregister.co.uk)

She went on to explicitly state that the evidence in the lawsuit and the defense's response indicated that "state election officials had buried their heads in the sand." (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Totenberg also dismissed an argument made by state election officials that the lawsuit was invalid under the 11th amendment, which governs the balance between state and federal law making.

Too Late For Change

Despite all of this, Totenberg dismissed the lawsuit because of what she described as a "true catch-22."

She noted that the suit was calling for officials to switch from electronic to paper voting, but that it was too late to do this before early voting starts next month without the risk that the change would "jeopardize the upcoming elections, voter turnout, and the orderly administration of the election."

Although it's technically a victory for the state, it could be bad news for election officials in the long run. Totenberg concluded by noting that "The 2020 elections are around the corner" and that future cases might be heard on a quicker schedule. That certainly appears like a strong hint that officials need to improve the electronic systems if they don't want to lose a future case.

What's Your Opinion?

Does your state have electronic voting? Weighing up security and convenience, would you rather have paper or electronic voting in your area? Should the courts have heard this case quicker given the implications?

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