A lawsuit against the Georgia Election Board is reviving concerns about vulnerabilities in the state’s voting systems and could lead to a third round of voting in the state’s hotly-contested 6th Congressional District.
Spearheaded by the Coalition for Good Governance, a North Carolina-based non-profit electoral watchdog group, and filed on behalf of a group of Georgia voters – Democrat and Republican – the suit contends that touch-screen computers used in a June 20 runoff election fail Georgia’s own security standards.
The plaintiffs want Georgia’s Fulton County Superior Court to set aside the runoff, won by Republican Karen Handel, and order a new election. The contest for the seat formerly held by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is already the most expensive House race in history.
Before the earlier votes, Common Cause urged state election officials to conduct the election using paper ballots, which can be audited after the voting to ensure that the reported results are accurate. The Coalition for Good Governance also is calling for the use of paper ballots.
In 2006, researchers at Princeton University found that an AccuVote TS, Georgia’s most widely used voting machine, could be hacked in a mere four minutes. Several states, including North Carolina, have since stopped using those machines, citing an inability to verify the recorded results.
Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan, warns that 40 states rely on dated voting machines over a decade old. “As a technical matter, it is certainly possible votes could be changed and an election outcome in a close election could be flipped,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
Logan Lamb, a Georgia-based engineer for the digital security company Bastille Networks, also found that significant portions of the state’s election system were inadvertently left unprotected from August 2016 to March 2017.
Lamb was able to easily access the Global Election Management Systems database containing confidential material on the state’s registered voters and information on procedures to update voting machines.
State officials failed to rectify these vulnerabilities until March 1, and the FBI began an analysis of the voting system shortly afterward. The bureau has declined to comment on the status of the investigation.
According to the FBI, Russia probed election systems in at least 39 states prior to the 2016 general election. It is unclear whether the hackers located key system vulnerabilities, such as the program flaw that in August exposed personal information about some 1.8 million Illinois voters.
Organizers of the Georgia suit also plan to seek a preliminary injunction preventing the use of voting computers in the state’s upcoming municipal elections.
Issues: Voting and Elections