Computer experts: Ditch Georgia’s voting machines

Computer experts: Ditch Georgia’s voting machines

Posted For: Bob


An independent panel of experts on computer systems and election security issues has concluded a lengthy investigation into the voting systems currently in place in the state of Georgia and sent recommendations to the State Election Board and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The current system primarily relies on touchscreen voting machines produced by Dominion Voting Systems. The audit must not have gone very well because they advise that the state discontinue the use of the Dominion machines and move immediately to hand-marked paper ballots. They are also recommending a much broader series of mandatory audits of the results after the initial count is concluded. These changes, they say, will not only afford greater accuracy but increased public confidence in the outcome. But at least initially, it doesn’t sound as if Raffensperger and the rest of the board are warming up to the idea. (Associated Press)

A group of computer and election security experts is urging Georgia election officials to replace the state’s touchscreen voting machines with hand-marked paper ballots ahead of the November midterm elections, citing what they say are “serious threats” posed by an apparent breach of voting equipment in one county.

The 13 experts on Thursday sent a letter to the members of the State Election Board and to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who’s a non-voting member of the board. It urges them to immediately stop using the state’s Dominion Voting Systems touchscreen voting machines. It also suggests they mandate a particular type of post-election audit on the outcome of all races on the ballot.

The experts who sent the letter include academics and former state election officials and are not associated with efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

You might be wondering if such a change is even possible with less than two months to go until election day and only a month before some early mail ballots begin going out. But the authors of the study point out that no real changes would need to be made other than giving the order because the state already has a law in place allowing paper ballots to be used on an emergency basis. The state could simply eliminate the machines and employ the paper ballot system exclusively.

Raffensperger’s spokesman didn’t seem enthusiastic. He said that they would respond to the letter “in due time and with due care,” but that the response would be sent directly to the authors and not be “leaked to the media to obtain some sort of rhetorical advantage.”

This is a sticky situation, particularly considering the ongoing investigation into a “breach” of the voting equipment in one county by people associated with Donald Trump. Also, the efforts to overturn the results in Georgia and claims about potential voter fraud and issues with the Dominion system may play into the board’s decision. And how much “due time” does Raffensperger think he has, given the short amount of time remaining before voting begins?

Unless Georgia wants to see a repeat of 2020, I believe they would be wise to take the panel’s advice and go to paper ballots. Any sort of touchscreen system that doesn’t involve a paper ballot filled out by the voter is bound to be suspect at this point, particularly when most voters are likely aware of how often government computer systems are hacked all around the globe. The current Dominion system takes the voter’s input from the touchscreen and prints out a ballot, but it uses a QR code that is unreadable by the voter to register the tally.

The other reality to deal with here is that paper ballots work and you can find few better examples of that truth than the system in France. The French use paper ballots that are filled out by hand in all but a handful of precincts that have experimented with voting machines. There is no absentee or mail-in voting. After showing identification and filling out their ballots, French voters place them in a sealed envelope and deposit them in a transparent box. They then must sign the voter roll to prevent people from voting twice. In April, they went through that process in the first presidential election and they had the results ready to release on the night of the election. No questions were raised about the accuracy of the results and the losers conceded immediately.

Georgia could do the very same thing with very little muss or fuss if the board acts promptly. At this point, it doesn’t really matter if the Dominion machines are 100% accurate and immune from tampering (doubtful) or if they are rife with errors and potential exposures to hacking. People have seen too many stories surrounding Dominion at this point. These elections coming up in November are expected to be extremely close in many cases. Do you think everyone is simply going to be satisfied with computer-generated results and just go home and forget about it? Hand-marked paper ballots can be produced and counted as many times as they need to be. Georgia’s elections, no matter how close they may be, could stand up to any level of scrutiny if they do this. And they should, as quickly as possible.

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