Several election integrity groups are ratcheting up the pressure on Georgia election officials to ditch the electronic voting machines the state purchased in 2019 in favor of paper ballots in time for the 2024 presidential election.
Dominion Voting System detractors accounted for the majority of the 100 people packed inside a state Capitol legislative committee room on Tuesday for a State Election Board meeting where several dozen people pushed to replace voting software that some cyber security experts say is a ripe target for hackers.
At the next meeting of the state election board, members are expected to reconsider their decision to back Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s plan to delay security updates on the system until after the 2024 election cycle, which polls show could see a repeat of the 2020 presidential showdown at the top of the ticket.
Conspiracy theories still swirl in Georgia that claim without basis that President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory was tainted by widespread voter fraud that was in part due to vulnerabilities and errors in the Dominion machines.
A petition filed by the Coalition for Good Governance urged the State Election Board to implement more stringent inspections of voting equipment and follow recommended cyber security measures to limit the chance of breaches. The petition expands the rule governing use of paper ballots for emergencies if there is reasonable evidence that the system might have been compromised.
Raffensperger has defended the system as being secure and battle tested and that other measures are in place to protect the system during next year’s election cycle. The state election chief has argued against rushing through an update of voting software before it is rigorously tested.
A large number of of people in attendance Tuesday were expressing their solidarity with shirts emblazoned with phrases such as Paper Please that featured the logo of a VoterGa, a group dominated by 2020 election deniers who claim that incompetence and misconduct by local election workers delivered widespread voting fraud involving a large cast of characters.
Public comments on Tuesday overwhelmingly called for replacing the Dominion machines with paper ballots prior to next year. A University of Michigan cyber security professor’s report citing numerous security vulnerabilities in Dominion’s system was frequently referenced.
Lucia Frazier, a Fulton County resident, praised the board for devoting time to cases like how early voting might have been affected by an earlier closure than was announced.
“You show a lot of care to voting, discussing such small details and focusing so hard on voter accessibility,” Frazier said. “But you really miss the big picture. Our votes can easily not get counted. After all this beautiful accessibility, corruption of our elections is so much easier with digital data.”
Dominion’s system was rolled out statewide in 2019, but by that time the state was already involved in a legal battle with Coalition for Good Governance and other plaintiffs who argue that hand-marking ballots is the safest way to vote.
The debate over electronic voting machines versus paper ballots also was a focus of conspiracy theorists who blamed the Dominion’s system for Trump’s loss to Biden in 2020.
Multiple state and federal investigations found no evidence of voting fraud in the 2020 presidential election, and multiple recounts confirmed Biden’s victory in Georgia.
Meanwhile, VoterGa is leading an online campaign on Georgiansfortruth.org to encourage people to contact local and state officials in support of a special legislative session to get rid of the electronic system.
State election officials have defended the security of the voting machine system, in which a large touch screen with a list of candidates can be selected and the ballot choices are then printed on a paper ballot. An automated scanner then reads a QR code on the paper ballot that corresponds to the voter’s candidate. Georgians who doubt the system’s integrity say the QR code isn’t as transparent to the voter as an official ballot with written names would be.
Raffensperger is praising a four-step plan to ensure the accuracy of the 2024 election results. Among the protocols are steps to test every piece of voting equipment for accuracy and to also randomly test machines throughout the three weeks of early voting and on Election Day in order to detect ongoing threats.
Moreover, he said that Georgia’s voting process has been bolstered by the 2021 Republican election law overhaul and in 2019 when lawmakers allowed the purchase of Dominion system with its auditable paper ballots.
“Every step of the Secure the Vote plan mitigates risks and holds every level of the election process to Georgia’s voters,” Raffensperger said in a statement last week. “Giving voters the power to review their ballot before turning it in allows for Georgia voters – not activists or lawyers – to decide whom they selected to vote into office.”
The findings of the cyber security report are also catching the attention of Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones who met with Raffensperger last week. Jones said he looked forward to hearing from Raffensperger about more proactive measures that can be taken to ensure the voting systems’ security ahead of 2024.
“Protecting the integrity of Georgia’s elections should be top of mind for every elected official in this state,” Jones said last week.
This story comes to Rough Draft via a media partnership with Georgia Recorder.