ATLANTA (AP) — A federal judge ruled Monday that every polling place in Georgia must have at least one updated paper backup of the electronic pollbooks that are used to check voters in.
U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg called the requirement "a limited common sense remedy to the real and repetitive voting impediments" faced by voters and "the substantial threat that they will face from these impediments anew in the 2020 general election" if the paper backups are not in place.
Voting integrity activists had asked the judge to order the change, arguing that malfunctioning electronic pollbooks created bottlenecks that resulted in voters waiting in long lines during the primary election in June and runoff election in August.
The electronic pollbooks are part of the new election system the state bought last year from Dominion Voting Systems for more than $100 million.
The order requires Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to generate and provide to election superintendents in each county a list of electors updated at the close of the in-person early voting period to contain all the information in the electronic pollbook. The secretary of state is to instruct the election superintendents to provide at least on paper backup at each polling place on Election Day.
The paper backups are to be used to determine voter eligibility and precinct assignment in the case of equipment malfunction or other emergency, Totenberg wrote. She also ordered that efforts be made to ensure that county election officials and poll workers are trained on using paper pollbook backups and emergency ballots and that a sufficient stock of emergency paper ballots be maintained.
Totenberg's ruling follows a three-day hearing earlier this month in a long-running fight over Georgia's voting machines. The lawsuit filed in 2017 against state and county election officials originally challenged the state's old, outdated voting machines but has since been amended to target the new machines and election system.
Totenberg's ruling was narrowly tailored to deal with the issue of paper pollbook backups. She said during an emergency hearing Monday that she needs more time to address the other issues at stake in light of new issues raised by plaintiffs over the weekend, but she wanted to give the state time to begin preparing to provide paper pollbook backups.
The election integrity activists, including the Coalition for Good Governance, say the new voting machines are unaccountable and unverifiable and have many of the same security vulnerabilities as the old ones. They have asked Totenberg to order the state to ditch the new ballot-marking machines in favor of hand-marked paper ballots for the November election.
State officials have argued that Georgia has made significant improvements in recent years to update and secure its election infrastructure. They had urged Totenberg not to order any changes so close to the election, saying they would be extremely costly and difficult to implement in time.
Totenberg has been highly critical of the state in the past, saying election officials long ignored clearly evident problems with the old machines, as well as other glaring security holes in the election system. But over the course of this case, she has repeatedly shied away from ordering major changes with an election looming.