Georgia’s Secretary of State has set March 24, 2020, as the date for the presidential primary, but an ongoing lawsuit and questions about the purchase of new voting machines remain.
A U.S. District Court judge declined to dismiss the lawsuit filed against the Secretary of State’s office by Fair Fight Action, a group formed after Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams lost the November 2018 election.
The group says voter registrations were purged and some minorities were deprived of their voting rights. Gov. Brian Kemp served as the Secretary of State during the election. His office did not return requests for comment.
Attorneys for current Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told the judge that new voting machines approved by the Georgia Legislature in March will fix any problems. Raffensperger’s office did respond to request for comment.
Democrats say the new machines, which come at a $150 million price tag, are still problematic and do not leave a true paper trail.
The machines are similar to ones used by Georgia voters for the past 17 years. Voters will use a touchscreen to cast their ballots. A paper record will be printed that the voter will sign verifying the vote. While the paper record has text, it also has an embedded barcode. Once the voter verifies the paper record, it will be put into a separate machine which counts the vote.
“Barcodes are just as hackable as other machines,” Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Tucker, said in an interview. “And now you have two separate machines that separate the voter from the vote.”
Another issue is cost, Clark said. The machines require paper and software licenses and the actual costs to local election officials is unknown.
“We had elections officers from different counties come in and speak to us at the Capitol and when asked the straightforward question, ‘how much is this going to cost’ they all looked at us and said, ‘We have no idea.’”
The Secretary of State is facing a legal challenge from the nonprofit Coalition for Good Governance. In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, the organization is asking the court to require Georgia election officials to switch to paper ballots. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg refused to dismiss the lawsuit in May. In June the organization filed another motion asking Totenberg to force the Secretary of State to stop using the current voting machines as of Oct. 1 according to the Daily Report. The organization claims every vote has a “unique identifier” that could be hacked and the ballots would no longer be secret.
The Secretary of State’s office has proceeded with the requests for proposals for the new voting machines but no vendor has been announced.