With midterm elections fast approaching and ongoing reports of Russian hacking into our nation’s voting systems, MoFo pro bono attorneys Catherine Chapple, Robert Manoso, Jane Bentrott, John P. Carlin and David Cross are fighting harder than ever to abate threats to our democratic elections.
In Georgia, our pro bono team is making headway with a federal lawsuit on behalf of voters to challenge the state’s unsafe elections system. Georgia is one of only five states that rely on antiquated, electronic-only voting systems statewide. This leaves the state’s voting system especially vulnerable to election interference by cyberattack. Experts agree that, with no paper trail to back up votes cast electronically, Georgia’s system is prone to potential hacking and technical problems.
Not only is Georgia one of the most populous of the five states using electronic-only voting machines, but the Russian elections hackers who were indicted last summer probed several Georgia counties for vulnerabilities in late October 2016. For these reasons, concerned Georgia voters have sought immediate changes ahead of the next election. But getting those changes implemented has been an uphill battle. For example, in the fall of 2016, Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp rejected federal assistance in securing the state’s voting system.
MoFo pro bono attorneys are representing election integrity activists in an attempt to get the courts to step in, in a case known as Curling v. Kemp. In September, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg heard our clients’ request to safeguard the integrity of the election by using the state’s absentee ballot system to run an all-paper election in the November midterms. The court declined that request, fearing that Secretary Kemp’s administration could not implement this change so close to the upcoming election without creating confusion and chaos.
However, Judge Totenberg made clear that change is coming to Georgia’s voting system, writing that “the Plaintiffs’ evidence as to the problems of security, accuracy, reliability, and currency of Georgia’s system and software” had “hardly been rebutted” by the State, and advising the State that “further delay is not tolerable in their confronting and tackling the challenges before the State’s election balloting system.”
“The State’s posture in this litigation—and some of the testimony and evidence presented—indicated that the Defendants and State election officials had buried their heads in the sand,” the judge said.
Although Judge Totenburg did not rule on the broader case, forcing the state to replace its 27,000 voting machines, she did note that unless her decision is taken up on appeals she plans to expedite a decision ahead of the 2020 elections. According to Cross, “We read the decision as essentially saying it’s too late for something at this point, but for the 2020 elections, there will be a change.”
This case, which continues in litigation, has received notable attention across several media outlets, including the Washington Post, Bloomberg, and Infosecurity Group.
To read more pro bono stories, download the fall 2018 edition of MoProBono here.