Computer experts urge Georgia to replace voting machines

ATLANTA (AP) — A group of computer and election security experts is urging Georgia election officials to replace the state’s touchscreen voting machines with handwritten ballots ahead of November’s midterm elections, citing what they say are “serious threats.” from apparent tampering with election equipment in one county.

The 13 experts sent a letter Thursday to State Election Commission members and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who is a nonvoting member of the board. It urges them to immediately stop using the state’s Dominion Voting Systems touch-screen voting machines. He also suggests they mandate a specific type of post-election audit of the outcome of all races on the ballot.

The experts who sent the letter include academics and former state election officials and are not connected to efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The midterm elections are just two months away. The switch to handwritten ballots could easily happen by then because state law already provides for their use as an emergency backup, the letter said.

State Board of Elections Chairman William Duffy said in an email that “the security of our election equipment is of primary concern to the State Board of Elections, as is the integrity of the election process in Georgia.” He noted that the alleged breach in Coffee County is being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and investigators from the secretary of state’s office, and said the FBI has been called in to assist.

“The investigation is active and ongoing,” Duffey wrote. “The information developed will be taken into account in assessing the impact of Coffee County’s conduct.”

Raffensperger’s office has repeatedly said that elections in Georgia remain secure because of the various security mechanisms in place. Spokesman Mike Hassinger said in an email that the office would respond “in due course with due diligence” and that the response would be “addressed directly to the authors, rather than leaked to the media to gain some kind of rhetorical advantage.”

The apparent unauthorized copying of voting equipment in Coffee County occurred in January 2021. It is documented in emails, security camera footage and other records produced in response to subpoenas in a long-running lawsuit that claims Georgia’s voting machines are vulnerable and they must be replaced by hand-marked paper ballots.

Those records show that a computer forensics team traveled to the rural county about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta on Jan. 7, 2021, to forensically copy voting equipment. The emails show that Sidney Powell and other Trump-allied lawyers were involved in arranging the visit.

Security video also shows Doug Logan and Jeff Lenberg, who were involved in broader efforts to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 election, visiting the office later that month.

Experts who sent the letter Thursday have long criticized Georgia’s voting machines, which print a paper ballot that includes a human-readable summary of voter choices and a barcode read by a scanner to count votes. . They argue that the machines have already made elections more vulnerable to tampering because voters can’t read the barcode to verify that it accurately reflects their choices.

But Coffee County’s copying and sharing of election data and software “increases both the risk of undetected cyberattacks in Georgia and the risk of allegations of fraud and election manipulation,” the letter states.

The expert letter also references the work of University of Michigan computer science professor J. Alex Halderman, who is serving as an expert in the long-running voting machine lawsuit. It has identified what it says are security vulnerabilities in Georgia’s voting machines. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued an advisory in June based on Halderman’s findings.

In addition to urging a switch to handwritten ballots, experts say a statewide post-election audit should be conducted, limiting risk to all ballot races. A risk mitigation check essentially uses a statistical approach to ensure that the reported results match the actual votes. Current rules require that only one competition be audited across the country.

At least some of the experts who signed the letter sent to the Georgia State Board of Elections last year sent a similar letter to California’s secretary of state ahead of a recall election for the state’s governor, calling for strict scrutiny of that contest. The Secretary of State did not act on the recommendations.

___

Associated Press writer Christina A. Cassidy contributed to the report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *