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Common Cause, the National Election Defense Coalition and Protect Democracy Support Legal Challenge to Georgia’s Insecure Voting System

Common Cause, the National Election Defense Coalition and Protect Democracy today filed an Amicus Curiae brief in support of all plaintiffs in the Curling v. Kemp lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.  The brief was filed on July 17, 2018.

As national, nonpartisan organizations with expertise in vulnerable voting systems, these groups have urged the Court to reject the State defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, and to promptly consider and grant the plaintiffs’ anticipated motions for preliminary injunctive relief to prevent the use of insecure paperless voting machines in Georgia’s elections.

“We filed this amicus brief to bring serious problems with Georgia’s outdated paperless touchscreen voting system to the court’s attention,” said Sara Henderson, Common Cause Georgia Executive Director.

“This case raises important issues going to the heart of American democracy — the obligation of states to take reasonable steps to secure their voting systems against cyberattacks,” said Larry Schwartztol, Counsel at Protect Democracy.  “The courts have a role to play in protecting the rights of every voter, and the the plaintiffs in this case should have their day in court.”

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s recent indictments of 12 Russian nationals who were actively working to infiltrate America’s election infrastructure specifically alleged that those individuals sought to identify vulnerabilities in certain Georgia counties.  The organizations want to ensure that Georgia’s voting system is protected and that every US state is scrutinizing the security of its voting machines and vote counts to restore trust in US elections.

“Department of Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen has warned that paperless voting machines like those used in Georgia are a national security concern.  We share this concern because these machines can be undetectably manipulated,” said Susan Greenhalgh, Policy Director, National Election Defense Coalition.

The groups encourage the Court to deny the State defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint before considering the facts, and to consider and grant preliminary relief preventing the use of paperless direct recording electronic voting machines (“paperless DREs”), which have known security flaws and are impossible to audit.  The groups want voters to mark and cast paper ballots.  Georgia already has optical scanning machines used to count paper absentee ballots, which could be used to provide an auditable paper trail.

Georgia uses an outdated paperless voting system known as the Diebold AccuVote TS/TSX, which employs a touch screen and creates no voter-verified paper trail.  If software bugs, programming errors or malicious software cause votes to be miscounted, the problems may be impossible to detect or correct.

Flaws in the AccuVote DRE system have been documented in official state-sponsored studies and by academics.   A Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy video reveals how the system can be manipulated, underscoring the risks of failing to have a voter-marked paper record of votes.

To protect Georgia voters, Common Cause and other amici are urging the court to deny the State defendants’ motion to dismiss, promptly consider and grant the plaintiffs’ anticipated requests for preliminary injunctive relief, prohibiting the use of these vulnerable paperless voting machines.

No voting system is immune to attack or manipulation.

Cybersecurity experts recommend a two-part process to secure votes and election tallies.  First, voters should mark, verify and cast paper ballots to create a permanent and verified record of each vote.   Second, the computer-generated election results must be checked in a manual post-election audit in which a statistically significant percentage of the ballots are checked manually to give high confidence to election results.

View the filed motion here and the brief here.