Georgia Voters File Legal Challenge To June 20 Special Election And Use Of Unsecured Voting System

Voters seek to sideline voting system, alleging indeterminable results

Atlanta (July 4, 2017)—Coalition for Good Governance and six Georgia voters filed a lawsuit yesterday, alleging that numerous failures of the voting system resulted in an indeterminable outcome in the June 20 Special Election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. The lawsuit (Curling v. Kemp et al.), seeks to set aside the results of the Special Election because demonstrated voting system failures cause the reported results to be in considerable doubt. The lawsuit names Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the State Election Board, all county election officials conducting the Special Election, Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems, and its director, Merle King, as defendants. The plaintiffs requested a jury trial in the case.

The plaintiffs allege that the security of Georgia’s touchscreen voting system was severely compromised, violated Georgia’s election code, and cannot be legally used to conduct elections. As a result, an accurate election result could not be determined for the June 20 election. Georgia’s election code permits voters to initiate a legal challenge (an “election contest”) when irregularities or officials’ misconduct casts doubt on the reported election outcome.

Donna Curling, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, explained, “Georgia voters have been concerned for years about the major vulnerabilities in the un-auditable system and the very real risk of pervasive failure in an election that cannot be rectified. That is exactly what happened June 20, when voters unknowingly cast their ballots in a system that had been compromised so severely that the impacts cannot be evaluated. Georgians must demand that officials honor our constitutional rights to fair and legally conducted elections. This lawsuit is our next major step in that process.”

Marilyn Marks, Executive Director of the organizing plaintiff Coalition for Good Governance, added, “As the facts of the case are presented, Georgia voters will be appalled at the recklessness with which officials handled their votes. Secretary Kemp and all the named election officials received repeated grave warnings from cybersecurity experts concerning the likely compromise of the system and the compelling need to use paper ballots. Officials irresponsibly ignored the compelling evidence of the problems and concealed them from the public as they made false assurances about the security of the system.

Computer scientists, expert in voting systems, warned Secretary Kemp and Georgia officials that because of the security failures that created extensive internet exposure of the system components, the system must be presumed to be compromised and unsafe for use in the Special Election. The sound warnings were ignored, as officials committed to use a voting system that did not meet Georgia’s election laws nor the most basic common sense computer security standards.

Richard DeMillo, Georgia Tech computer science professor and a former Dean, Director of the Information Security Center, and Hewlett Packard CTO, who has extensive technical knowledge of Georgia’s voting system, stated, “I worry that what we have here in Georgia is the Titanic Effect. We have a Secretary of State who thinks Russian election hacking is fake news and is dismissive of system vulnerabilities. Georgia officials are convinced the state’s election system cannot be breached. Shades of the ‘unsinkable ship’. They have neglected to give us life boats. In this case, life boats would come in the form of a fail-safe system designed so that in case of a catastrophe Georgia voters can easily verify that reported vote totals match voter intent. It is the sort of common-sense approach that first-year engineering students learn. Other states have that capability. Inexplicably, Georgia does not.”

Curling, DeMillo, and 12 other Georgia voters, concerned about the voting system’s vulnerability and unreliable design, urgently requested Secretary Kemp and the State Election Board on May 10 and again on May 17, May 19, and June 2 to immediately re-examine the voting system and sideline it for the Special Election because of known serious security concerns. Their demands and the warnings of national experts were ignored. 

On June 14, the extensive nature of Georgia’s voting system vulnerability became national news when Politico reported the fact that the entire system had been open for months on the internet for access by anyone. Cybersecurity researchers found open access to system information including passwords, private voter registration information, ballot programming software, and evidence that Georgia's Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State was transmitting key programming information to election officials over the internet. Georgia officials failed to inform the public of the system failures and conducted the election by using the unsafe system. 

Plaintiffs allege that, just as computer scientists warned before the Special Election, the compromised system was incapable of producing reliable and certifiable results, stating that the system cannot be presumed to have been safe or legal for accepting votes. The Georgia voters bringing this lawsuit view this litigation as an important step in requiring that the unverifiable touchscreen system be decommissioned as several other states have done.

The suit seeks to overturn the reported results of the Special Election and to order a new election, as well as requiring Secretary Kemp to re-examine the system and prohibit its use in the upcoming November municipal elections. 

In addition to Curling and Coalition for Good Governance, the plaintiffs comprise a diverse group of Georgia voters, including Ricardo Davis, Laura Digges, William Digges III, Donna Price, and Jeffrey Schoenberg. Curling and Price are the founders of Georgians for Verified Voting which has secure elections as its mission.

A press conference is planned for Thursday morning, July 6 at the Georgia State Capitol. Details will be provided shortly.

The Coalition for Good Governance is a non-partisan, non-profit organization focused on fair and transparent elections. Formerly known as Rocky Mountain Foundation, it was the organizing plaintiff in a related lawsuit filed in Fulton County Superior Court May 25, 2017, Curling v. Kemp et al. (2017CV290630).

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