“Changing long-standing processes right before an election almost always has unintended consequences,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said. “We will file a notice of appeal immediately to protect the security of the vote and to protect Georgia elections from activists on disinformation campaigns.”
Totenberg’s 67-page ruling recounts problems that voters have faced in elections since 2018.
Some voters showed up at the polls but weren’t listed as registered on check-in computers. Others found wrong addresses displayed or were told they had to go to another polling place to vote. Poll workers at times didn’t offer provisional ballots as they should have to voters whose registration information was in doubt.
In addition, computer voter registration systems showed that some voters had already cast their ballots when they hadn’t.
Georgia purchased new voting equipment for this year’s elections, but check-in tablets called Poll Pads have caused problems in elections since November, culminating in this summer’s primary, Totenberg wrote.
Some polling places opened late because workers couldn’t get Poll Pads working. Poll workers at times couldn’t get Poll Pads to program voter access cards that activate touchscreens. Voters reported receiving the wrong ballots because polling places didn’t have accurate lists of who had already voted.
“The judge’s order will go a long way to prevent the long lines that crippled the June primary by giving local county election officials something to use if the electronic Poll Pads, which check in voters, continue to fail, as they have in every recent election,” said Bruce Brown, an attorney for the Coalition for Good Governance, an election security organization. “Like a lot of backup systems, the hope is that they’ll never be used.”
While paper voter registration lists were already required at precincts before Totenberg’s ruling, they didn’t contain records of who had already voted in the election. That information is accessible on Poll Pads, but if they’re not functioning, that could severely slow the voting process. Poll workers would have to issue provisional ballots to voters if their registration information can’t be verified.
A paper list showing who has voted or requested an absentee ballot would allow poll workers to continue allowing eligible voters to move through lines, according to Totenberg’s ruling. Voters who never requested an absentee ballot would be able to vote immediately; others could cancel their absentee ballots and then vote.
“Voters waited for hours because of delays and malfunctions with the operation of the Poll Pads. In many instances of such bottlenecks created by operational problems with the Poll Pads, poll workers did not use paper pollbooks as a backup to aid voter check-in and facilitate voting,” Totenberg wrote.
She ordered the secretary of state’s office to create voter registration lists and absentee voting records after in-person early voting ends the Friday before Election Day. Then county election offices will be required to print out those lists and provide them at each precinct.
Totenberg’s ruling is part of an ongoing lawsuit by plaintiffs whose ultimate goal is to replace voting touchscreens with paper ballots filled out by hand. She didn’t rule Monday on that issue, but last year she denied a similar effort because of the disruption it would cause so close to Election Day.