The plaintiffs in the case contend that these machines could compromise the voters' ability to cast their ballots effectively, thereby infringing on the United States Constitution.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg has set the bench trial date for January 9, 2024. The lawsuit was initiated by the Coalition for Good Governance, an election integrity advocacy group, along with several individual voters.
The plaintiffs are advocating for the replacement of electronic voting machines with hand-marked paper ballots, citing the susceptibility of the machines, manufactured by Dominion, to cybersecurity issues, as reported by Newsmax.
The plaintiffs had hoped to resolve the matter without resorting to a trial. However, Judge Totenberg, in her ruling on Friday, stated, "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. 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 defendants in the lawsuit include Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and members of the State Election Board.
The lawsuit incorporated an expert report that identified vulnerabilities in the Georgia election system. This led a federal cybersecurity agency to issue an advisory to jurisdictions using the equipment. The report also spurred certain Georgia Republicans to call for the complete abandonment of the voting machines.
The lawsuit also revealed a security flaw in election equipment in a remote county in south Georgia, which resulted in the indictment of former President Donald Trump and eighteen other individuals in Fulton County on criminal charges.
The state of Georgia has been under national scrutiny since the 2020 presidential election, following allegations of malfunctioning Dominion voting machines that supposedly miscounted ballots. Some Republican voters have claimed this resulted in a "stolen election."
Despite Republicans being labeled as "conspiracy theorists," Judge Totenberg clarified in her ruling, as per Newsmax, that the case "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 activists argue that voters are uncertain if the barcode scanned truly represents their choices. They also claim that a significant number of voters fail to review the human-readable portion, hindering effective audits.
J. Alex Halderman, a computer scientist at the University of Michigan and an expert witness for the plaintiffs, analyzed the Dominion voting equipment and identified flaws that could potentially be exploited by malicious entities.
Halderman alleges that in January 2021, a computer forensics team hired by Trump associates extracted data and software from election equipment in Coffee County, Georgia, and disseminated it to an unknown number of individuals, thereby exacerbating the risks associated with those vulnerabilities.
The state will not install a software upgrade designed to rectify these vulnerabilities before the 2024 Presidential Election, citing the impracticality of updating all equipment by that date.
The attorneys representing the election officials have asserted that the state implements numerous precautions to safeguard the integrity of its electoral system and that no election system is entirely devoid of vulnerabilities.
Judge Totenberg stated in her ruling that even if she were to side with the plaintiffs, she could not mandate the state to implement a paper ballot system. However, she noted that there are "pragmatic, sound remedial policy measures" she could order the state to adopt. These could include eliminating QR codes on ballots and having scanners read human-legible text; expanding the scope and number of election audits; and implementing essential cybersecurity measures and policies recommended by leading experts, as per the network.
The trial scheduled for January 9 will be a bench trial, with no jury involved.