For Immediate Release
Coalition for Good Governance
April 11, 2023
Coalition For Good Governance Petitions for Election Rule Changes in Response to Georgia Statewide Voting System Breach
ATLANTA—Coalition for Good Governance (“CGG”) filed a formal petition today with the Georgia State Election Board seeking essential voting system security mitigations in response to the 2021 breach of the state’s voting system and software. Trump allies, funded by Sidney Powell, accessed and copied the state’s voting system software and Coffee County, Georgia’s electronic data from the November 2020 election and the January 2021 U.S. Senate runoffs. For months, the nation’s top cybersecurity and voting system experts have urged Secretary of State Raffensperger and the State Election Board to address the elevated risks and vulnerabilities of Georgia’s voting system, given that the state’s software is “in the wild” after the breach and can be used by bad actors to develop vote-stealing malware. Experts’ warnings supplemented the June 2022 federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) findings (published prior to CISA’s knowledge of the breach) concerning Georgia’s touchscreen system’s security vulnerabilities, advising that system design vulnerabilities be mitigated as soon as possible, and robust post-election audits be undertaken.
“Our democracy functions only when we have election results that we can trust, even when our candidates don’t win. Partisan actors copied and distributed Georgia’s voting system software on line to an unknown number of other individuals. Despite months of urgent warnings of irrefutable elevated risks in Georgia’s voting system and the urgent need for remediation, Secretary Raffensperger and the State Election Board have turned a blind eye to the alarming facts, experts’ reports, and system security vulnerabilities,” said Marilyn Marks, CGG’s Executive Director.
“The 2023 session of the General Assembly recently adjourned with no fact-finding hearings concerning the breach, proposed legislation for remediation, or even mention of the looming threat to the state’s elections. By ignoring the very real risk of future undetectable vote manipulation or electronic chaos at the hands of bad actors given the widespread improper access to Georgia’s software and system, state officials are putting every voter’s vote at risk, and infringing on Georgians’ rights to cast accountable ballots.”
CGG seeks interim balloting and auditing procedures which the organization states will greatly improve Georgia’s election security. Such measures include the use of scanned hand marked paper ballots tabulated by the current optical scanners with outcomes subjected to rigorous audits of the majority of contests on the ballot. Current law provides for the use of hand marked paper ballots as the back-up balloting procedure when touchscreen voting system use is “impossible or impracticable.” The proposed rules would invoke such emergency balloting procedures, removing most touchscreen units from service, recognizing the “impracticable” nature of using the compromised system in public elections. Election workers are routinely trained on these emergency procedures using hand marked ballots, and often deploy them when machine problems are encountered at the polls, meaning that such proposed back-up balloting procedures to secure future elections can be utilized immediately.
CGG recommends that the proposed rules requiring the back-up balloting procedures remain in place until the system is declared safe for use by the Secretary of State and a majority vote of the State Election Board after a public hearing. The current scanners and servers would be used without the complexity, vulnerability, and high cost of the touchscreen units, sharply reducing the labor cost required for programming, testing, handling, securing, transporting, set up and operation of the 35,000+ touchscreen ballot marking device units now operated in Georgia.
Manual recounts would be easier to obtain under the proposal, permitting more discretion by election officials to consider factors such as security risks in determining whether to conduct a recount by hand rather than by machine. The proposed rules also require local election officials to immediately report voting system security incidents and vulnerabilities detected in the course of their conduct of elections, and mandate that the State Election Board promptly investigate such reports.
Coalition for Good Governance’s petition is filed under a provision of Georgia’s Election Code permitting individuals or organizations to submit a formal petition to propose Election Rule additions or modifications. The Board is required to take up the petition for proposed rules for consideration in the next public meeting.
“We look forward to the Board’s prompt consideration of these common sense security measures which provide the foundation for full confidence of Georgia voters in the certified outcomes of their elections. Meaningful robust audits conducted in a fully transparent manner will provide confidence that the election outcomes reflect the will of the voters,” added Marks. “Election security must cease being the taboo topic it became after the 2020 election when partisan interests drove civic leaders into extreme unsupported positions of ‘it’s all rigged’ or alternatively, ‘everything’s fine,’ when neither reflects the important truth. This partisan extremism paralyzing Georgia’s leaders is in part responsible for their failure to enact badly needed election security reforms. Our petition seeks to move beyond such short-sightedness, and establish simple non-partisan solutions to Georgia’s need for fair and secure elections.”
Coalition for Good Governance is a non-partisan non-profit 501(c )(3) organization dedicated to the issues of election security, voter privacy, and government transparency, particularly in the arena of public elections.