Today’s Federal Court Ruling – Common Cause Responds

Federal District Court Justice Amy Totenberg today issued a ruling in the long-running case of Curling v. Raffensperger, requiring the Georgia Secretary of State and local elections to ensure that polling places use  paper backups of electronic poll books in the event of electronic pollbook failure.

Statement by Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis

Judge Totenberg’s order is a victory for voters and for the integrity of our elections.

Common Cause Georgia has been working to improve our elections infrastructure for years. It’s unfortunate that so much of the progress has come only through court decisions. In Judge Totenberg’s previous order she recommended that there be paper printouts of the voter rolls. This order clarifies that if epoll books aren’t functioning, not only should paper poll books be printed out but they should be used to check in voters and update their status. She further required that poll workers be trained in this process.

Common Cause Georgia and the Brennan Center recommended this reform back in January, during public comment on proposed changes to State Elections Board Rules.

But it took today’s order from Judge Totenberg to put our proposed precaution into practice.

Hopefully, the paper poll books will not need to be used. However, it’s better to be prepared, and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

As the Secretary of State’s Chief Operating Officer, Gabe Sterling said last year, ‘When you have an election with millions of people voting at one time, things are going to happen.’ 

Paper copies of poll books will help ensure that Georgia’s voters can still cast their ballots, even if ‘things’ happen on election day.

So this is a ‘win’ for Georgia’s voters. 

We hope that elections officials will also extend this model of preparedness to the matter of emergency paper ballots. In January we recommended each polling place have enough emergency/provisional ballots to equal 35% of registered voters. We believe given the circumstances of this election, that this will be a “sufficient” amount as required by the Judge in part (5) of her Order.   

Unfortunately, during the June primary, some precincts ran out of emergency paper ballots. We hope that does not happen again, in the general election.