In a high-stakes case that could affect voting across the state in the run-up to the presidential election and lend credence to Donald Trump’s baseless accusations of extensive election fraud, a federal court will start hearing arguments on Tuesday that voting machines in Georgia are so hackable that they violate voters’ rights.
The Coalition for Good Governance is a nonprofit organisation that has been fighting for more open elections since 2017. The group’s position is that paper ballots should be the state’s default method of voting and that Georgia should abandon its touchscreen voting technologies.
Trump and his supporters have taken advantage of the protracted legal dispute to attempt to bolster their claims of extensive electoral fraud in 2020. In 2020 and 2022, when the identical machines were used in Georgia, numerous audits, inquiries, and a state-wide hand recount could not uncover any proof of such assertions. Claims of misconduct and collusion in other swing states have also been disproven.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who refused Trump’s demands that he “find” ballots to invalidate the state’s 2020 election, is a key figure in the nonprofit’s delicate case, and the voting machines in question are manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems, which has been at the centre of Trump’s accusations of fraud.
The trial is scheduled to continue until January, and a decision is anticipated to be announced in the late spring or early summer. Thus, it is probable that it will occur after the March primary in Georgia but prior to the general election.
Just months before what could be a contentious rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden, federal judge Amy Totenberg, who was appointed during Obama’s administration, could rule against the state. This could force Georgia officials to implement stronger controls to prevent hacking or remove the devices altogether.
Georgia is one of only two states in the US that employs the Dominion machines in question statewide; Biden won by about 12,000 votes in 2020.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs do not claim that hackers took advantage of system flaws in earlier Georgia elections.
But they claim that pro-Trump activists’ attempts to steal voting system software in various battleground states, including Coffee County, Georgia, have increased the hacking threats since 2020.
Fani Willis, the district attorney for Fulton County, has now made that event key to her massive indictment of the ex-president and his associates. Plaintiffs contend that the software breach makes it easier for bad actors to identify ways to sabotage the machines in Georgia, and evidence of this initially emerged as a result of the Coalition for Good Governance litigation.
“That software is still ricocheting around with all sorts of actors with all sorts of motives,” explained Marilyn Marks, executive director of The Coalition for Good Governance. She went on to say that there would be “enormous risk of post-election chaos” if such dangers were not addressed before 2024.
The representative for Raffensperger chose not to comment due to the continuing nature of the matter. However, the state has previously maintained that the plaintiffs’ worries are exaggerated by IT experts who fail to take into account the numerous safeguards incorporated into the voting process, such as post-election audits, physical security measures, and multiple rounds of technological testing.
They bring out the fact that in order to insert malware into Dominion systems, hackers would want physical access. Then again, they say, dishonest people probably couldn’t steal enough votes to change the outcome of an election and still go unpunished.
While composing an email to state legislators in June of last year, Raffensperger said, “It’s more likely that I could win the lottery without buying a ticket than pull off an election-changing hack.” The message was subsequently made public.
A large number of non-governmental election security specialists and the plaintiffs themselves have argued that the Coffee County hack proves that the state’s voting machines are far easier to hack than the state claims.
According to Gregory Miller, COO of the non-profit Open Source Election Technology Institute (OSET), lawmakers and officials across should “damn well better take seriously what I call the ACC world — after Coffee County” during an interview.
Another accusation levelled by the plaintiffs is that state officials, including Raffensperger, concealed their knowledge of the Coffee County violation.
The state’s motion to exclude Raffensperger from the testimony was approved by a federal appeals court on Friday. On the other hand, multiple other state officials must make an appearance.
Without a jury to resolve the matter, Totenberg cannot compel the state to switch voting systems. She may, however, demand that officials use alternative methods of vote tallying, conduct more thorough audits following the election, or introduce new physical safeguards.
Whatever the outcome of the case, the former president has already demonstrated a tendency to utilise the Coffee County breach to support his assertions.
The “true risks” of the Dominion devices were highlighted in a December 2020 draft executive order that Trump’s associates had drafted, which sought to seize voting machines in the United States. On Truth Social, Trump finally released the long-awaited study that he had promised, purporting to prove that the 2020 election had been rigged.
Using selective testimony from the protracted legal dispute, the anonymous document largely restated previously rejected accusations.
“If the Republican Senate does not take action and deal with this HORROR, it will happen again, and it will be extremely difficult for Republicans to win elections going forward,” Trump tweeted.
In response to allegations of electoral fraud, Dominion has taken a strong stance, settling a defamation case with Fox News last year for roughly $800 million. In addition, the business is suing four Trump associates, claiming that they helped disseminate false information that the corporation plotted to defraud Trump of his 2020 electoral votes.
When asked about worries that the ongoing legal processes would fuel conspiracy theories even more, Stephanie Walstrom, a representative for Dominion, responded, “It’s already happening.”