Georgia replaces voting machines in Coffee County after alleged security breach

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Friday that he intends to replace some voting machines in a South Georgia district where forensic scientists who worked for pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell last year analyzed virtually every component of the voting system copied.

Raffensperger (R) said his office will replace machines in Coffee County “to allay fears being fueled by perennial election deniers and conspiracy theorists.” He added that anyone who broke the law related to unauthorized access to Coffee County’s machines should be punished, “but current Coffee County election officials need to move forward with the 2022 election, and they should be able to.” to do this without that distraction.”

Some election security experts have raised concerns that copying the Coffee County software — used across the state of Georgia — risks exposing the entire state to hackers who could use the copied software as a roadmap to find and exploit vulnerabilities. Raffensperger’s office said security protocols make it virtually impossible for votes to be tampered with unnoticed.

The move comes after Raffensperger’s office spent months expressing skepticism that such a security breach had ever occurred in Coffee County. “There’s no evidence of that. It didn’t happen,” Raffensperger’s chief operations officer, Gabe Sterling, said at a public event in April.

Since then, the fact that outsiders accessed district election machines and copied sensitive software and data has been corroborated by affidavits, video surveillance footage from inside and outside the district election office, and other documents given to plaintiffs in long-running civil litigation over election security in Georgia. Plaintiffs argue that the state should replace touchscreen voting machines with handwritten paper ballots. Raffensperger and other Georgian officials are defendants in this case. They deny that the electoral system is unsafe.

The announcement said Coffee County would receive new “ballot marking devices,” the touchscreen voting machines that voters use to make their choices; printer for paper ballots with voter selection; ballot scanners for use in constituencies; Electronic ballot pads for checking voters in at polling stations; and flash cards and USB sticks.

Two devices accessed by Coffee County forensic experts — a central election scanner and the election management system server used to count the results — had been replaced by Raffensperger’s office in June 2021.

Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, a plaintiff in the civil suit, said leaving these two pieces of equipment in place was “extremely ineffective”. They had been used in elections with the “suspected contaminated” devices that are now being replaced and may now be contaminated themselves, she said.

Voting machines undergo tests to ensure they count votes accurately. These tests in Coffee County have shown no evidence of altered results since they were copied, Sterling said.

The cost of the materials is about $400,000, not including shipping and programming work, Sterling said. The state has the machines at hand, so no new cash expenditures are necessary now. “Our position is that those responsible should pay, but it will be up to the legal system how that is done,” he said.

Prior to the announcement, Susan Greenhalgh, a senior advisor on election security at the nonprofit organization Free Speech for People and a consulting expert with the Coalition for Good Governance, said replacing Coffee County’s machines was necessary but not sufficient to mitigate election risk curb security in Georgia.

“They still have the general problem that the software has been leaked to countless people who might have bad intentions and might be using it to figure out how to rig an election,” Greenhalgh told reporters at a news conference earlier this week.

Video footage shows a SullivanStrickler team from Atlanta spent approximately eight hours at the county elections office on Jan. 7, 2021, copying software from Dominion Voting Systems devices and data from multiple memory sticks and other devices.

The then-district returning officer told the Washington Post earlier this year that she let the team into the office to find evidence that the election “was not conducted truthfully and correctly.” Video footage also shows that Cathy Latham, then-Chairman of the County Republican Party, welcomed the SullivanStrickler team to the polling station and introduced them to local officials. Her lawyers have denied that she was involved in the January 7 duplication or did anything improper or illegal.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said it was investigating a suspected computer break-in at a Coffee County election server today. A special grand jury in Atlanta, already investigating the “fake elector” scheme to keep President Donald Trump in power with fake ballots, recently broadened its investigation into the Coffee County episode.

The grand jury issued subpoenas to Powell and SullivanStrickler, among others. The company said in a statement to The Post that it was not a target of the investigation and that the company and its employees were witnesses in the case.

SullivanStrickler said it believed the attorneys it worked for were authorized to access the voting machines and that the firm had no reason to believe the attorneys would ask them to do anything illegal or inappropriate. “We are confident that it will quickly become apparent that we did nothing wrong and acted in good faith at all times,” the statement said.

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