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Federal judge orders review of Georgia’s provisional ballots

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Noting that it was likely that the administration of former Georgia Secretary of State and self-proclaimed governor-elect Brian Kemp likely failed to “properly maintain a reliable and secure voter registration system,” a federal judge said the state must review provisional ballots cast in a contentious Nov. 6 election.

In ruling on a case brought by Common Cause Georgia, U.S. District for the Northern District of Georgia Judge Amy Totenberg ordered the Secretary of State’s office to ensure the ballots are counted and “to immediately establish and publicize on its website a secure and free-access hotline or website for provisional ballot voters to access to determine whether their provisional ballots were counted and if not, the reason why.”  

Initial results indicated Republican Kemp, who has been slammed for the state’s election security woes and accused of voter suppression as he purged voter rolls throughout the state, was the winner of the Nov. 6 gubernatorial election. But as provisional and absentee votes are counted, his lead has shrunk. His Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, has refused to concede, contending that once all ballots are counted Kemp is likely to fall below the 50 percent threshold, resulting in a Dec. 4 runoff between the two.

In separate case in August, Totenberg ruled that despite serious questions about election security Georgia could continue to use its touchscreen voting system in the 2018 election rather than add paper ballots to the mix, citing the close proximity to the midterms, but issued a scathing rebuke of the state’s usage of such old machinery, admonishing Georgia officials for sticking their “head in the sand” in the face of evidence that showed the state’s election systems had security holes.

Just two days before the midterms, Kemp, who resigned his office after the election in anticipation of becoming governor and before facing a lawsuit challenging his authority over the election results, accused the Democratic Party of Georgia of “a failed attempt to hack the state’s voter registration system.”

At the time, Kemp’s office said it wouldn’t comment on the probe. “I can confirm that the Democratic Party of Georgia is under investigation for possible cyber crimes,” his press secretary, Candice Broce, said in a release. “We can also confirm that no personal data was breached and our system remains secure.”

The allegations, which were made without evidence, were immediately renounced by Democrats and called into questions by security pros who pointed to numerous previous vulnerabilities in the state’s election system that they said had gone ignored.

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