Georgia’s Governor Signs New Election Security Bill in Response to Voting Rights Groups’ Lawsuit

Comes as part of a package of reforms following concerns over 2018 election

Governor Brian Kemp today signed into law HB 392, which has a provision requiring Georgia’s secretary of state to take steps to shore up the security of the state’s voter registration database.  The move comes just weeks after Gov. Kemp signed HB 316, which included new protections for Georgia voters who are required to cast provisional ballots. These bills were passed in direct response to a lawsuit brought on behalf of Common Cause Georgia by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, along with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, & Garrison LLP, and Sugarman LLP.

“On Election Day we fielded too many calls from voters who had cast ballots in previous elections but were suddenly told that they were no longer in the system.  The sheer volume of these complaints, coupled with the highly publicized cyber security failures of the State forced us to push forward with legal action,” said Sara Henderson, Executive Director of Common Cause Georgia.  “The result is that the State has now enacted some critical reforms.  But the work is not finished. We will closely monitor the state’s compliance with this new statutory requirement and make sure that the security protocols the Secretary puts forward protect Georgia voters.”

“This is a good outcome for Georgia voters,” said Myrna Pérez, director of the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights & Elections Project. “We know that foreign cybercriminals have been targeting state voter registration databases. These legislative provisions should enhance the security of the voter registration database in the lead-up to an election and provide new protections to better ensure that all valid provisional ballots are counted after an election.”

Last November, attorneys for Common Cause Georgia filed a lawsuit in the face of mounting evidence that Georgia’s voter registration systems were vulnerable to manipulation – and that the state’s provisional ballot system provided insufficient recourse in the event of a hack to the registration database.  The lawsuit put forward declarations indicating that numerous voters who had voted in previous elections were told that they were either not registered to vote, or were suddenly registered in another county.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Common Cause Georgia and its attorneys successfully secured a temporary order from a federal district court that required Georgia counties to take certain steps when counting provisional ballots. The original order came into effect in time for ballot counting following last fall’s election.

Taken together, provisions of both newly passed bills will enhance protections for the state’s voter registration database by requiring the secretary of state to establish security protocols for voter registration; requiring certification of compliance with those protocols annually; and requiring election officials to consult all available voter registration information to determine whether a provisional ballot should be counted.