U.S.

Georgia to replace voting machines in Coffee County after alleged security breach

Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced on Friday that he plans to replace some election equipment in a South Georgia county where forensic experts who worked for pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell last year found virtually every part of the state. voting system copied.

Raffensperger (R) said his office will replace machines in Coffee County “to allay the fear fueled by perennial election deniers and conspiracy theorists.” He added that anyone who breaks the law in connection with unauthorized access to Coffee County’s machines should be punished, “but the current election officials in Coffee County should go ahead with the 2022 election, and they should be able to do so without this.” diversion .”

Some election security experts have expressed concerns that copying the Coffee County software — which is used statewide in 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 has said security protocols would make it virtually impossible to manipulate votes without detection.

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

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Since then, the fact that outsiders gained access to voting machines in the county — and copied sensitive software and data — has been confirmed by affidavits, video surveillance footage from inside and outside the district election office, and other documents handed over to plaintiffs in long-running civil lawsuits. electoral security lawsuits in Georgia. The plaintiffs argue that the state should replace the touchscreen voting machines with hand-marked paper ballots. Raffensperger and other Georgia officials have been charged in that case. They deny that the voting system is unsafe.

The announcement said Coffee County would receive new “ballot markers,” the touchscreen voting machines that voters use to make their selections; paper ballot printers with voter selections; voice scanners for use in terrains; electronic polling stations used to check voters into polling stations; and flash cards and USB sticks.

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

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Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, a plaintiff in the civil suit, said it is “extremely ineffective” to leave those two devices in place. They have been used during elections with the “presumably contaminated” devices now being replaced, and could now be contaminated themselves, she said.

Prior to the announcement, Susan Greenhalgh, a senior election security adviser for the nonprofit Free Speech for People and an expert advisory for the Coalition for Good Governance, said replacing the machines in Coffee County is necessary but not sufficient to mitigate the risk. elections to reduce security in Georgia.

“You still have the general problem that the software has been released in the wild to countless individuals who may have malicious intent and may be using it to find ways to manipulate an election,” Greenhalgh told reporters at a news conference earlier. this week. .

Video footage shows an Atlanta-based SullivanStrickler team spent approximately eight hours in the county election office on January 7, 2021, copying software from Dominion Voting Systems equipment and data from multiple memory sticks and other devices.

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The then provincial election supervisor told The Washington Post earlier this year that she had admitted the team into the office to help find evidence that the election was “not true and done correctly.” The video footage also shows Cathy Latham, then the chairman of the county’s Republican Party, greeting the SullivanStrickler team at the polls and introducing them to local officials. Her lawyers have denied that she participated in the January 7 copying or did anything inappropriate or illegal.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said it is investigating a suspected computer breach on a Coffee County election server that day. A special grand jury in Atlanta, which has been investigating the “fake voter” scheme to keep President Donald Trump in power using fake election certificates, recently expanded its investigation to include the Coffee County episode.

The grand jury has subpoenaed Powell and Sullivan Strickler, 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 has said it believed the attorneys it worked for were authorized to access the voting machines, and the company had no reason to believe the attorneys would ask it to do anything illegal or inappropriate. “We are confident that it will soon become clear that we have done nothing wrong and acted in good faith at all times,” the statement said.

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