Ruling on paper-ballot suit in Georgia’s 6th District coming soon

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

Voters in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District will likely know by week’s end whether they can continue using electronic machines or will have to cast ballots on paper.

A decision to go with paper ballots would all but void the state’s current voting system with less than two weeks to go before a key election.

A Fulton County judge heard eight hours of testimony and arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit calling for paper ballots in the hotly contested June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

At issue, according to the suit, is Georgia's reliance on voting machines it calls too old, unreliable and vulnerable to malicious attacks without a forensic review of their operating systems.

There is no evidence that the state’s system has been compromised. Georgia experienced no major problems during last year’s presidential election.

State and local election officials say changing that system now could bring chaos.

More than 63,000 people have already voted ahead of the runoff on the current system. The counties in the 6th District - Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton - would face thousands of dollars in unexpected costs to print paper ballots and buy things like ballot boxes.

But those seeking the paper ballots say it’s an issue of voter confidence.

“When you’re filling in bubbles on paper, there’s a record,” said Robert McGuire III, the attorney representing those who brought the suit, including the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Foundation as well as two Georgia voters, Donna Curling and Donna Price.

Georgia uses touch-screen direct-recording electronic voting machines. The state committed to the machines in 2002 when it last overhauled its elections system. At the same time, it eliminated a paper trail of recorded votes.

Having a paper trail is something that many experts consider to be a "best practice" — particularly in an age of heightened cybersecurity awareness and hacking threats, as evidenced by the hacking attempts detailed in a top-secret government report published this week by The Intercept about Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams said she expects to issue a ruling no later than Friday.