Election Security Experts Highlight Major Flaws In Tennessee Election Systems

CINCINNATI, OH  – Free Speech For People and the law firm Covington & Burling filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on Thursday, November 7, 2019, on behalf of the National Election Defense Coalition, the U.S. Technology Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery, and individual computer security experts. The brief concerns a case regarding the security of the Accuvote TSx direct-recording electronic (Accuvote DRE) voting machines adopted by the Shelby County Election Commission.

Shelby County Advocates for Valid Elections (SAVE) argue the AccuVote DRE has numerous documented errors when recording and tallying votes. Faulty touch-screen calibration and software issues have caused the machines to incorrectly record a voter’s candidate of choice, similar to issues with straight-ticket voting in Texas in 2018. The machines have been found by computer security researchers to be highly susceptible to hacking and lack proper encryption technology. Compounding these problems is a lack of a voter-verified, reliable, physical record of voter intent for auditing the machine: a physical ballot that is necessary to conduct an effective post-election audit capable of spotting mistakes in the tallies made by the machines. Such security flaws, combined with the fact that Shelby County is home to Tennessee’s largest African American population, have led SAVE to contend that the county’s use of the machines represents voter disenfranchisement in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.

The United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee ruled in favor of the defendants, including Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, granting a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that SAVE failed to provide significant proof of harm beyond speculation. The amicus brief argues that the federal appeals court should reverse this decision so that Shelby County voters can be guaranteed equal, protected participation in future elections.

“Electronic voting machines cannot be trusted for properly counting our votes,” says attorney Courtney Hostetler of Free Speech For People, which serves as co-counsel on the amicus brief with the law firm of Covington & Burling. “With the 2020 election looming, this case provides the opportunity for the federal appeals court to intervene and secure the right to vote for all Shelby County voters.”

“Protecting voting rights doesn’t stop once the voter is in the voting booth,” said Susan Greenhalgh, vice president of policy and programs for the National Election Defense Coalition. “Faulty, unreliable, hackable voting machines that disenfranchise voters can violate the right to vote. The Shelby Advocates have stood up to protect the right to vote and ensure all citizens’ votes are cast as intended and counted as cast.”

Oral arguments in the case will take place on December 3 at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District in Cincinnati.

Read the full brief here.

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