Federal Judge Affirms that Georgia’s Failure to Secure Election System Violates Voters’ Constitutional Rights

Atlanta, GA, Sept. 17, 2018 – Tonight’s ruling by Federal Judge Amy Totenberg handed a qualified victory to pro-democracy advocates pushing for more secure and trusted elections in Georgia. The issue in the case Curling v. Kemp is the state’s continued use of vulnerable paperless electronic voting machines, as part of the paperless Diebold AccuVote TS/TSx voting system. The voting machines have been the subject of numerous studies, reports and demonstrations, which have revealed how hackers can easily infiltrate the machines and change votes undetected.

Plaintiffs sued Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and other officials, alleging that continued use of the paperless voting machines violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection. It also substantially burdens their fundamental right to vote. Advocates petitioned the court to remove these vulnerable machines from service in the November 2018 election.

Noting the waning days until the midterm election. the lack of immediately available alternative equipment and other administrative hurdles, the Judge did not order that the machines be replaced before November 6, 2018. However, the Court rejected the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case and admonished the Secretary of State for failing to remove the machines from service earlier.

Common Cause, which submitted a brief and supporting evidence as amicus curae in the case, together with other pro-democracy advocates, is pleased that Judge Amy Totenberg of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia strongly admonished Georgia state officials to recognize current threats to election security, writing in her opinion that they “buried their heads in the sand.” Her opinion stated that “[t]he Court is gravely concerned about the State’s pace in responding to the serious vulnerabilities of its voting system,” and she urged the State to transition to voting machines that have an independent paper ballot audit capability by the 2020 elections.
“We are very grateful to Judge Totenberg for understanding the urgency of acting to protect the vote,” said Sara Henderson, Common Cause Georgia executive director.

The Judge’s opinion stated the case could proceed on the merits of the plaintiffs’ arguments. She added that the plaintiffs have shown that their 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection have been “burdened” by Georgia’s vulnerable voting system.

According to her ruling, Georgia’s voting system fails a crucial test: “an electoral system must be accurate and trustworthy.”