Politics

Legal Battles, Glitches Continue To Swirl Around Georgia’s New Voting System

Voters check in during the August runoff election in Fulton County.
Voters check in during the August runoff election in Fulton County.
Credit Emil Moffatt / WABE
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A federal judge has ordered Georgia counties to have a back-up paper copy of the list used to check in voters for the November elections.

The electronic pollbook issue is part of a larger, ongoing legal dispute over whether the new voting system is secure and can produce reliable results. It’s a fight that’s playing out just weeks before early voting begins across the state.

In her order issued Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg wrote that the evidence presented in the lawsuit “demonstrates a system-wide problem of malfunctioning electronic PollPads” dating back to last November when six counties began using the new system in a pilot program. Problems with checking in voters also contributed to long lines in the June primaries.

The order also calls for larger counties, such as Fulton, to have multiple, updated paper copies of voter lists at each polling location.

Counties have also been instructed to have a “sufficient stock of emergency paper ballots” on hand in case the electronic voting machines fail.

“It is not too late for Defendants to take these reasonable concrete measures,” Totenberg wrote as part of her order, “to mitigate the real potential harms that would otherwise likely transpire at precinct polling locations grappling with the boiling brew created by the combination of new voting equipment issues and old voter data system deficiencies.”

U.S. Senate Race

Totenberg wrote Monday that she is temporarily holding off on ruling on other parts of the suit because of new evidence involving Georgia’s special election for U.S Senate.

It was discovered last week that the large number of names on the ballot for that race caused a programming issue for the state’s new voting machines.  Twenty-one candidates, including the incumbent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, are vying in the Nov. 3 election to succeed Johnny Isakson for a full term.

To fit all those names on one screen, however, the state decided to break them into two columns, alphabetically, says Gabe Sterling with the secretary of state’s office.

“Out of fairness to the candidates and to make it easier on the voters, we want to have everything on one page,” said Sterling. “Because, as an example, [Ed] Tarver, [Raphael] Warnock, Loeffler, and I think [Matt] Lieberman all would have been on the second page.’

But during logic and accuracy tests last week, it was discovered that some of the voting machines weren’t displaying the second column of names.

Sterling says they’ve identified the problem and expect a solution to be in place soon, so counties can resume testing.

Critics of the new voting system point to the issue as another flaw in the new system. The lawsuit is asking the judge to order the state to discard the new electronic voting machines in November, in favor of hand-marked paper ballots.

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