Georgia now has a new voting system that will be rolled out for the presidential preference primary on March 24 next year. The system consists of touchscreen computers that print out ballots after they are cast by voters, providing a paper document for review, validation, audits or recounts.
The state awarded a $107 million contract to Dominion Voting Systems of Denver for 30,000 new machines to replace the badly outdated electronic voting equipment used for the past 17 years. Dominion won the contract with a competitive bid that came in with the lowest price. Announcing the decision, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stressed ballot security, the issue that has plagued Georgia in recent elections.
“Elections security is my top priority,” Raffensperger said. “We look forward to working with national and local elections security experts to institute best practices and continue to safeguard all aspects of physical and cyber-security in an ever-changing threat environment.” His office has partnered with the Department of Homeland Security and private cyber security companies “to provide network monitoring, cyber-hygiene scanning, and cyber-security assessments,” he said. In addition, many Georgia counties have also partnered with DHS “to provide physical security assessments of their election offices.”
Dominion CEO John Poulos said his firm is delivering “a best-in-class system that is fully adaptable to state needs,” promising that election officials and voters “can be assured they are using the most modern, accessible and security-focused system on the market today, with paper ballots for every vote cast to ease auditing and ensure confidence in results.” Bolstering the case for the new machines, Rockdale County’s election supervisor, Cynthia Willingham, praised Raffensperger’s decision, reflecting testimony earlier this year by county officials favoring the new machines because they are similar to the touchscreens being replaced and will make training of poll workers easier.
Despite the assurances of security, critics contend that the new machines are vulnerable to hacking and other problems. Garland Favorito, founder of VoterGA, a nonprofit election-security advocacy group, issued a news release charging that the state will replace its “current unverifiable electronic voting system with another type of unverifiable system.” Other critics have pushed for a straightforward paper ballot marked by hand.
Of course, there are reasons to be concerned about security, witness the major breaches of corporations including the recent hacking of Capital One that accessed personal information of more than 100 million persons applying for credit and the hacking of Atlanta-based Equifax that exposed the personal information of more than 147 million people in 2017, a case just settled with the company agreeing to spend up to $425 million to assist those affected.
Meanwhile, a federal judge is considering whether to order Georgia to abandon the old voting system immediately and come up with an interim solution for November’s municipal and special elections. The issue for U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg is protecting the constitutional right to vote and the question is open as to what decision she may hand down. The state has more than enough to handle already in trying to fully implement the new system within the next eight months before the presidential primary.
This new system may not be what some people wanted and it may not be the best of all systems, but, for starters, it is far better than the old one. And, as noted, county officials who are closest to the issue feel that the new machines will not pose a big problem in training workers, a very important factor in getting the system in operation quickly.
We believe the secretary of state and officials in his office have done their due diligence in good faith and have chosen a system that will accurately record votes and provide a paper trail. Likewise, we believe the secretary and his staff are fully committed to preventing cyber intrusions and maintaining the integrity of our elections. The acid test is coming. Let’s hope the new system passes the test whether or not all the critics are satisfied.