The following is a press release from Coalition for Good Government, issued on July 5th, 2017. The coalition's executive director is Marilyn Marks, who, as executive director of Rocky Mountain Foundation, was a primary force behind the unsuccessful lawsuit last month that sought to force the GA-6 election to be conducted on paper ballots rather than the state's dated touchscreen voting system. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has covered the new lawsuit here.
Coalition for Good Governance and six Georgia voters filed a lawsuit July 3, alleging that numerous failures of the voting system caused 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 voting system failures created considerable doubt in the reported results. 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 have requested a jury trial.
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 cast 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, as we have just experienced.” She adds, “Georgians must demand that officials honor their 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, voters will be appalled at the reckless actions of election officials. Secretary Kemp and all the named election officials received repeated grave warnings from voting systems experts concerning the likely compromise of the system and the compelling need to use paper ballots. Officials 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 warned Secretary Kemp that security failures that created extensive internet exposure of the system components must be presumed to have compromised the system, rendering it unsafe for use in the Special Election. The admonitions were ignored, as officials deployed a voting system that did not meet Georgia’s election law requirements nor basic 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, lifeboats 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 for months the entire system had been open 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, 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 touch screen system be decommissioned as several other states have done.
In its study of voting technology, NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) found “no alternative that does not have as a likely consequence either an effective requirement for paper records or the possibility of undetectable errors in the recording of votes. If undetectable errors can be introduced at any point in the process, then the argument for the correctness of the process as a whole inevitably has a missing link.” Marks states that the correctness of the June 20 election indeed has that missing link and therefore casts the results in substantial doubt.
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 promptly re-examine the system and prohibit its use in the upcoming November municipal elections.
“In light of these and other threats to the legitimacy of elections in Georgia, voters and legislators have been asked to trust the word of officials that our votes are counted as cast. That is unacceptable for democratic voting systems. They must be transparent and verifiable,” said Donna Price, a plaintiff and a director of the citizens’ activist organization Georgians for Verified Voting.
The plaintiffs, a diverse group of Georgia voters, also include Ricardo Davis, Laura Digges, William Digges III, and Jeffrey Schoenberg
A press conference will be held at 10:30 a.m. ET at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center, 800 Spring Street, Atlanta. The press conference will be live-streamed on Facebook Live from the Coalition for Good Governance’s Facebook page.
The Coalition for Good Governance is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization (501(c)(3)) focused on fair and transparent elections.