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Last minute legal victory for voting rights activists

Staff Written News

By Tia Lynn Ivey

Managing Editor 

Time is running out before the Nov. 3 Presidential Election, with voting rights activists working overtime to enhance election security and accuracy, voting accessibility, and transparency of election officials. 

But a federal judge has given a last-minute victory to voting rights activists that will impact the entire state of Georgia before voters head to the polls on Nov. 3.

The ruling require paper backups for the upcoming election, a requirement voting rights activists see as imperative to an efficient and accurate election. 

Jeanne Dufort of Morgan County joined forces with the Coalition for Good Governance, a plaintiff in the case, and rose to become a leader in election accountability work across the state.

“This is a big win for Georgia voters,” said Jeanne Dufort of Morgan County who joined forces with the Coalition for Good Governance, a plaintiff in the case.  

“U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg on Tuesday directed the state to make sure every precinct in its 159 counties had paper backups for often glitchy electronic poll books used by poll workers to verify voters’ registrations,” explained R. Robin McDonald, a reporter for the Daily Report. 

According to Judge Totenberg, who granted the preliminary injunction, the ruling is “intended to prevent voter disenfranchisement.”

The new ruling requires the State of Georgia to provide all 159 Georgia counties with paper backups for electronic poll books used to validate voter registrations.  However, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger promised to  appeal the ruling immediately. 

“Raffensperger dismissed the plaintiffs Monday as ‘activists determined to undermine the credibility of our elections,’ and contended that Totenberg’s order ‘is based on the plaintiffs’ inaccurate characterizations of Georgia’s elections systems,’” reported McDonald. “The secretary also insisted that “by removing safeguards that are currently enforced at polling places, it opens the door to voter fraud through double voting,” although he did not say specifically what those safeguards were.”

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg of the Northern District of Georgia ruled that the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff must “provide at least a modicum of the voting backup plan tools essential to protecting voters’ constitutionally protected ability and right to cast a ballot that is counted and given the same weight as any other” for Nov. 3. General Election.

Dufort explained how paper back ups will help move the voting process along smoothly. 

“In every election in the last year—including the August Run-offs—glitches with the new KnowINK poll pads have caused delays and forced some voters to cast a provisional ballot. Having a paper backup with all the information needed to check them in and cast a ballot in precinct will streamline voting on Election Day, and reduce the number of provisional ballots that have to be processed later.”

The Coalition for Good Governance, a nonprofit group out of Atlanta that has been embattled in the case for three years, is celebrating this victory. 

“Technology should only be used when it supports the right to vote, not when it subverts such rights. Any action taken by the Court to ensure that voters can know that there is a reliable paper record of their eligibility to vote for reference at the polling place is a great advance,” said Rhonda Martin, an Atlanta voter and Coalition for Good Governance board member. “Today, Georgia voters can rest assured that important strides are being made to protect their constitutional right to vote.”

“The fact that Secretary Raffensperger and the State Election Board plan to appeal this court-ordered inexpensive, widely used protection for voters, and universally recommended by cybersecurity experts, speaks volumes about their real goals in conducting elections,” said Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance.  “There are 7 million reasons to protect Georgia voters by deploying this commonsense solution, and not one good reason to fight it. Secretary Raffensperger and the State Election Board need to understand that the elections belong to the people—not government officials.”

According to Marks, the Coalition for Good Governance organized this lawsuit in 2017 and has “succeeded in achieving major improvements for Georgia voters because of the significant subject matter expertise of its dedicated volunteers.”

According to the Daily Report, the “paper backups—which must be updated after the close of early in-person voting—must, in turn, be provided to every polling place. The intent, Totenberg said, is ‘to allow voters who are shown to be eligible electors on the paper pollbook backups who are not shown on the updated list as having requested an absentee mail-in ballot to cast a regular emergency ballot that is not treated as a provisional ballot.’”

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