Group seeks to use paper ballots during sixth district runoff race

A hearing for a lawsuit against three county election officials and Secretary of State Brian Kemp two weeks before the 6th Congressional District runoff election happened inside a Fulton County Superior Court Wednesday.

ATLANTA – A non-profit group is demanding that Fulton County use paper ballots during the sixth district runoff race.

In a motion brought by Rocky Mountain Foundation and members of Georgians for Verified Voting,  the organizations presented a case that the state’s touch screen-based voting system is “uncertified, unsafe and inaccurate” and that the county officials must instead use paper ballots in the election to have a verifiable transparent election.

The group noted a FBI investigation of a cyber-attack on the Center for Election Systems (CES) at Kennesaw State University, the entity responsible for testing and programming voting machines across Georgia.

While the FBI closed its investigation and did not prosecute anyone, the group said that cybersecurity at CES creates a serious ongoing risk of voting system intrusion or malfunction.

The group also cited voter irregularities during the April 18 special election, as well as a Fulton County voting system malfunction that same night, as reasons for concern. 

The plaintiffs said Secretary of State Brian Kemp ignored its request to examine the state’s voting system ahead of the special election.

“Secretary of State Kemp and the county election directors made an irresponsible decision to begin early voting without first addressing the voting system’s insecurities. That means thousands of Georgians will be casting a vote on a system that experts warn may not be secure or accurate,” said Marilyn Marks, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Foundation, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Georgians who want to vote early and ensure their ballot is counted as they intended should mail in an absentee ballot rather than using the touchscreen machines.”

Georgia statutes require that the Secretary of State re-examine the state’s voting if 10 or more electors request it, and that if the system is found to be unsafe or inaccurate, the election must use paper ballots instead. When Kemp’s office claimed, “Georgia’s voting equipment is regularly tested by experts and local elections officials across the state. We have complete confidence in its accuracy and security,” the voters updated their list of additional security concerns in a follow-up letter.

A hearing on the motion was held in Fulton County Superior Court on Wednesday.

Richard Barron, a representative from the Fulton County elections board, testified that switching voting to paper ballots would mean that all early and absentee votes already cast would possibly have to be thrown out. He went on to say that a new ballot would need to be designed, staff would need to be retrained, which could put the June 20 election date in jeopardy. He said doing so could cost the county more than $500,000.

A judge is expected to rule on the matter by the end of the week. 

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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