Josh Gerstein for Politico:
A judge assigned to a Republican-led lawsuit alleging widespread fraud in the presidential election in Georgia issued an order late Sunday night blocking plans to wipe or reset voting machines used in three counties in the state.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten Sr. revealed in his four-page directive that he held a hearing via Zoom Sunday evening on the suit — one of two cases filed in federal courts last week by Sidney Powell, an outspoken Texas attorney who joined President Donald Trump’s legal team earlier this month only to be dismissed from it a few days later.
The hearing was not announced on the court’s docket and appears not to have been open to the press or public. It seems to have focused on claims that the election results in Georgia were wildly inaccurate due to use of machines from a leading vendor of voting equipment — Dominion Election Systems.
Powell has alleged, based on scant evidence, that the firm’s foreign ties allowed hostile governments to meddle in the U.S. election via a conspiracy that involved both Democratic and Republican U.S. officials.
While many Democratic and some Republican officials have dismissed Powell’s claims as a fantasy, some GOP leaders are also warning that the effort to stoke doubt about the just-completed election could depress Republican turnout in a pair of runoff elections set for Jan. 5 in Georgia that could determine whether the GOP or Democrats control the U.S. Senate for the next two years.
Batten’s temporary restraining order issued after 10 p.m. Sunday applies to Dominion voting machines in Cobb and Gwinett counties, which favored President-elect Joe Biden, as well as smaller Cherokee County, which favored Trump.
“Defendants are hereby enjoined and restrained from altering, destroying, or erasing, or allowing the alteration, destruction, or erasure of, any software or data on any Dominion voting machine in Cobb, Gwinnett, and Cherokee Counties,” wrote Batten, an appointee of President George W. Bush.
According to Batten, counsel for the defendants in the suit — Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Ga.), Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and four other members of the Georgia Elections Board — argued that the court had no jurisdiction over the counties because they are not parties to the case. The defendants also argued that allowing experts working for plaintiffs to inspect the machines “would pose substantial security and proprietary/trade secret risks,” Batten’s order says.
The judge agreed to receive a brief by Wednesday afternoon from Kemp and Raffensperger detailing the reasons why they oppose allowing Powell’s team to conduct “forensic inspections” of the machines in the three counties.
n his order, Batten granted another request from the GOP plaintiffs, ordering the state to “promptly” provide the challengers with a copy of the state’s contract with Dominion.
In another development Monday morning, Batten certified his temporary restraining order for appeal, meaning that the state officials who are defendants in the case or perhaps even the counties affected could immediately appeal it to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.