IT experts urge Georgia to replace voting machines | Technology

By KATE BRUMBACK – Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — A group of computer and election security experts are urging Georgia election officials to replace the state’s touchscreen voting machines with hand-marked paper ballots ahead of the midterm elections. -November warrant, citing what they call “serious threats” posed by an apparent violation of voting materials in one county.

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

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

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The midterm elections are only two months away. A switch to hand-marked paper ballots could easily be made by then, as state law already provides for their use as an emergency backup solution, the letter says.

State Election Board Chairman William Duffey responded in an email to The Associated Press that “the security of our election equipment is of paramount interest to the State Election Board, as is the integrity of the election process. in Georgia”. He noted that the alleged offense in Coffee County was being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and investigators from the Secretary of State’s office and said the FBI had been asked to assist. .

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

Raffensperger’s office has repeatedly stated that Georgia’s elections remain secure due to the various security mechanisms in place. Spokesman Mike Hassinger said in an email that the office would respond “in a timely manner with due diligence” and that the response would be “directed to the authors, rather than leaked to the media for some sort of rhetorical advantage. “.

The apparent unauthorized copying of election materials in Coffee County occurred in January 2021. It is documented in emails, security camera footage and other recordings produced in response to subpoenas in a longstanding lawsuit that argues Georgia’s voting machines are vulnerable and should be replaced with hand-marked paper ballots.

These records show that a computer forensics team traveled to the rural county about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta on January 7, 2021 to forensically copy voting material. Emails show that Sidney Powell and other attorneys allied with Trump were involved in arranging the visit.

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

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

But copying and sharing Coffee County election data and software “increases both the risk of undetected cyberattacks against Georgia and the risk of accusations of voter fraud and voter manipulation,” the letter said.

The expert letter also cites the work of University of Michigan computer science professor J. Alex Halderman, who serves as an expert witness in the long-running voting machine lawsuit. He has identified what he says are security flaws 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 move to hand-marked paper ballots, experts say a statewide post-election audit, limiting risk, should be done on all races on the ballot. A risk mitigation audit essentially uses a statistical approach to ensure that the results reported correspond to the actual votes cast. Current rules require that only one statewide contest be audited.

At least some of the experts who signed the letter sent to the Georgia State Election Board last year sent a similar letter to the California secretary of state ahead of a recall election for state governor, calling for a rigorous audit of this competition. The Secretary of State did not act on the recommendations.

Associated Press writer Christina A. Cassidy contributed reporting.

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