FBI Investigation of Georgia Election Systems Breach Necessitates Use of Paper Ballots for Upcoming Congressional Special Election

Measure is Necessary to Safeguard Election & Reassure Public, Common Cause Tells Election Officials

Common Cause is urging Georgia election officials to use paper ballots to safeguard the integrity of next month’s congressional special election in light of the cyberattack on Kennesaw State University Elections Center. In a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Common Cause emphasized the need to use both paper ballots and paper poll books. 

The FBI is currently investigating the cyber breach at the KSU facility responsible for both pre-election testing and programming of all of the state’s voting machines. If cyber attackers accessed the system responsible for programming and testing voting machines, they could have infected that device with malicious software (malware) designed to manipulate vote totals. The malware could then be silently transferred to the voting machines as they are programmed from the KSU central programming device.

“In order to preserve public faith in the results and the integrity of the special election, it is imperative that the Secretary of State’s office use paper ballots in the wake of the cyber breach at the Election Center,” said Jon Sinton Chair of Common Cause Georgia. “The Kennesaw State University Election Center is a crime scene and until a full investigation of the breach is completed it would be irresponsible to rely exclusively on machines programmed at the facility which could have been infected by malicious software. We should not use the paperless computer based voting systems in this election cycle. Citizens should vote on paper. If ballots are tallied by computers – those tallies should be checked by a manual risk limiting audit.  If the Dutch government can count over 11 million ballots by hand to ensure the integrity of the ballot, we can vote on paper here and at least manually audit the outcome.”

The public has not been informed about the extent of the breach. Indeed, the FBI and other investigative bodies may not fully know at this time which areas were affected. Computer security experts and candidates have asked a number of important questions about the intrusion and its possible impact on Georgia’s election systems, but no detailed answers have been forthcoming.

The special election to fill the seat of Rep. Tom Price will be held on April 18 and early voting is scheduled to begin March 27.

Common Cause is urging the Secretary of State’s office to act with utmost care and caution to protect the integrity of the vote by taking the following precautions:

1)      Electronic systems that Georgia regularly uses should not be used in the upcoming congressional race. 

2)      Citizens should check into polling stations using paper poll books.

3)      Citizens should cast votes on paper ballots. 

4)      Those ballots should be tallied by hand. Or, if scanners are used to tally the ballots, they should be subject to a risk limiting audit which uses statistical methods to confirm that the outcome is correct.

In this way, Georgia voters of the 6th Congressional district can be assured that their votes were counted as cast. The candidates will know that no foreign intervention occurred and that the results are accurate.

Unless every ballot is counted as cast, Georgians will not have faith in the elections system.  Georgia – and all states – must have protocols in place to ensure that voters’ ballots are accurately counted.  Our democracy is at stake, but we have the tools to remedy this problem.  Georgia’s officials must take action.

To read the letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, click here.