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Ga. lawsuit on alleged weakness in Dominion machines set for trial, with a push for paper ballots

“The Court notes that the record evidence does not suggest that the Plaintiffs are conspiracy theorists of any variety. Indeed, some of the nation’s leading cybersecurity experts and computer scientists have provided testimony and affidavits on behalf of Plaintiffs’ case in the long course of this litigation,” the judge wrote in her ruling. The trial is set for Jan. 9 of next year.

Published: November 13, 2023 11:00pm

A 2017 lawsuit in Georgia regarding alleged vulnerabilities in Dominion Voting Systems machines is set for trial in January, following the public release of a report on the possible issues earlier this year.

The Atlanta Division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia is hearing the case of Curling v. Raffensperger, where the plaintiffs are asking to switch from electronic voting machines to paper ballots. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) and State Election Board members were first sued by the Coalition for Good Governance and several individual voters in 2017.

On Friday, Judge Amy Totenberg issued a 135-page ruling, which alleges that the state’s electronic voting machines have significant “cybersecurity deficiencies that unconstitutionally burden Plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and capacity to case effective votes that are accurately counted.”

The footnote to that summary by the judge reads, “The Court notes that the record evidence does not suggest that the Plaintiffs are conspiracy theorists of any variety. Indeed, some of the nation’s leading cybersecurity experts and computer scientists have provided testimony and affidavits on behalf of Plaintiffs’ case in the long course of this litigation.”

Totenberg set a bench trial for Jan. 9, 2024, meaning there will be no jury. However, she noted that a compromise could be made, along with action taken by the state legislature.

“The Court cannot wave a magic wand in this case to address the varied challenges to our democracy and election system in recent years, including those presented in this case,” Totenberg wrote. “But reasonable, timely discussion and compromise in this case, coupled with prompt, informed legislative action, might certainly make a difference that benefits the parties and the public.”

The judge also wrote that “Plaintiffs carry a heavy burden to establish a constitutional violation” in connection with the voting machine system.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office said in a statement on Monday, “We don’t negotiate with election deniers. Despite having heard all of this before from Sydney Powell and Stacey Abrams, and anyone else who lost elections (or in this case, a legislative defeat), we’ve never received an offer from the plaintiffs that doesn’t involve handmarked paper ballots — and all the insecurity, inefficiency, and uncertainty that come with that policy choice that Georgia legislators rejected.  If they have an idea that wouldn’t take Georgia back to the days of hanging chads and stuffed ballot boxes, they should offer it.”

Coalition for Good Governance executive director Marilyn Marks said in a statement, “The Court’s Order makes it clear that the status quo is far too risky, and that these concerning issues merit a trial,” the Associated Press reported.

David Cross, a lawyer for some of the individual voters, issued a statement saying “We look forward to presenting our full evidence at trial and obtaining critical relief for Georgia voters.” Cross continued to say “But we hope this decision will be a much-needed wakeup call for the Secretary and SEB, and finally spur them to work with us on a negotiated resolution that secures the right to vote in Georgia.”

When the lawsuit was first filed in 2017, it challenged the paperless voting machines that Georgia was using at the time. After Georgia purchased the current system in 2019, the case shifted to those voting machines, saying that they also have vulnerabilities.

In June, a nearly 2-year-old redacted report was finally made public by Totenberg, showing that Dominion voting machines had significant vulnerabilities, which led the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to issue a public advisory last year based on the findings.

The report was completed in July 2021 by University of Michigan Professor of Computer Science and Engineering J. Alex Halderman with Professor Drew Springall, of Auburn University, and focused in part on vulnerabilities they found after examining Dominion’s ImageCast X Ballot Marking Devices for three months, according to the Associated Press.

The report was completed on behalf of the plaintiffs in Curling v. Raffensperger and found the Dominion machines are vulnerable to vote flipping, NBC News reported.

Halderman suggested that the machines were capable of being manipulated in mere minutes by bad actors, saying the QR codes on printed ballots could be altered and malware installed on individual machines “with only brief physical access,” according to the report. The broader voting system could be attacked if bad actors have the same access to it as certain county-level election officials, the report also concluded.

However, Halderman stated there is no evidence such vulnerabilities have been exploited in past elections.

Despite the concerns regarding the vulnerabilities, Georgia election officials say that the machines won’t be updated until after the 2024 elections because it's such a massive undertaking.

Following the Halderman report, Dominion commissioned the nonprofit MITRE Corp.'s National Election Security Lab to respond to the findings. The report, completed in July 2022, was released along with the Halderman report.

The MITRE report said the Halderman report findings were “operationally infeasible” when considering adherence to strict security measures, normal voting practices, and scale considerations.

Dominion Voting Systems didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.