Georgia Votes in Primary Amid Cybersecurity Suit

Despite the continued development of a federal lawsuit regarding the cybersecurity of Georgia's voting machines against Georgia's secretary of state Brian Kemp and others, today's highly competitive primary race for governor puts a focus on paperless voting machines, according to the Augusta Chronicle

Georgia is one of just five states with an all-electronic voting machine system that has no independent paper backup, leaving it especially vulnerable to election interference through hacking. Across the nation, about 20% of registered voters use paperless machines. While election officials are on board with upgrading these systems, they do say that the machines are accurate, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

"In many jurisdictions, the multimillion-dollar cost is a hurdle," the Augusta Chronicle said, but since the confirmation that Russians did indeed meddle in the 2016 election, many states are taking steps to replace the machines that do not produce paper records.

"In Georgia, the cost to switch to paper-based machines in the state’s 159 counties ranges from $25 million to more than $100 million, depending on the technology adopted," the Augusta Chronicle reported. 

But issues with voting accuracy are not exclusive to statewide elections. On 15 May, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported, "A Fulton County judge ordered local elections officials to make available documents linked to a state investigation into potential irregularities of the December runoff that yielded a narrow victory for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms."

WXIA 11Alive, reported that "under Kemp’s watch there was a massive breach in 2015, potentially exposing the personal data of more than six million Georgians, traceable to one employee," but Kemp said extensive security measures and cyber-defense upgrades make the state’s current system reliable.

Security concerns, combined with all of the reported irregularities, have culminated in the law firm Morrison & Foerster representing, pro bono, a group of Georgia voters in the lawsuit, Curling v. Kemp, with the aim of making Georgia’s voting machines more resistant to cyber-attacks.

Morrison & Foerster partners David Cross and John Carlin are leading the team of attorneys working on the Curling v. Kemp case, and have secured an agreement over the preservation issues of the direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines.

“The goal of the suit," said Cross, "is to get the state to switch to a system (before the November election) that includes voter-marked paper ballots so votes can be audited and verified. In the time remaining before the midterms, that could mean having everyone cast a paper absentee ballot as one means of achieving this goal in the short term."

There are also varying options for long term solutions based on examples from other states. "The primary vulnerability is the ability to alter votes cast via DREs without a paper record to audit or otherwise verify the electronic voting records. Other vulnerabilities include the manner in which [Georgia] has stored voter registration information and the ability to access and even alter that information in ways that could affect the election. For example, a hacker could change assigned polling locations for certain voters to create confusion when they go to vote and effectively prevent them from voting,” Cross said.

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