Judge allows lawsuit seeking paper ballots in Georgia to advance

A lawsuit attempting to require paper ballots in Georgia elections can move ahead, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg rejected a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which alleges that the state's current electronic voting machines are unsafe and should be replaced with hand-marked paper ballots.

Georgia's 17-year-old voting machines are already set to be replaced with a system that includes paper ballots before next year's presidential primary election, but officials plan to use existing machines in municipal elections scheduled for this fall.

Totenberg wrote that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit “paint an unsettling picture of the vulnerabilities of Georgia's voting system.”

The plaintiffs, who are election integrity advocates and concerned Georgia voters, criticized the state's existing voting system because it could allegedly be hacked, with no paper trail to verify that vote counts were accurate.

“Plaintiffs essentially claim that the direct recording electronic (DRE) voting system in Georgia is unsecure, is unverifiable, and compromises the privacy and accuracy of their votes,” Totenberg wrote Tuesday.

Attorneys for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger have argued that there's no evidence that the state's voting machines have been tampered with during elections. Raffensperger's office declined to comment Tuesday.

Totenberg ruled last fall that the state's electronic voting machines posed a "concrete risk" to secure elections, but she declined to order a switch to hand-marked paper ballots just weeks before November's election.

“We look forward to a decision after the case is tried that requires hand-marked paper ballots counted by optical scanners and audited results to ensure outcomes that reflect the voters’ will,” said Marilyn Marks of the Coalition for Good Governance, one of the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit will also challenge Georgia's upcoming voting system, which will include paper ballots printed out from touchscreens.

Marks said the new voting system will have the same flaws as the state's existing digital voting machines, with security risks and unverifiable results.

After state election officials choose an elections company this summer, the plaintiffs will ask Totenberg to require Georgia's voters to use paper ballots filled out with a pen, Marks said.