DeKalb to keep controversial elections software, move poll worker data

People walk through the ramp at the Voter Registration & Elections in Dekalb during the first day of early voting on Monday, June 13, 2022. Votes are underway in metro Atlanta for runoff races. Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

People walk through the ramp at the Voter Registration & Elections in Dekalb during the first day of early voting on Monday, June 13, 2022. Votes are underway in metro Atlanta for runoff races. Miguel Martinez /

The DeKalb County elections board has chosen not to end its relationship with Konnech, a software company whose founder was recently arrested on accusations he stole the personal data of California poll workers.

But the contract will be amended — and, moving forward, the county will house any personal information collected from local poll workers on the servers it controls.

Chairwoman Dele Lowman Smith said the decision would allow DeKalb to ensure data was stored securely while continuing efforts to “improve our service to poll workers and improve our efficiency.”

The vote, split 3-2 along party lines, was contentious.

Republican board members Nancy Jester and Anthony Lewis both said they were disappointed in the decision, calling it an unnecessary risk for poll workers and expressing concerns about the future viability of Konnech and its software.

“That gives me a lot of heartburn,” said Jester, a former county commissioner and the board’s vice chair.

The leader of the DeKalb GOP, at least two local poll workers and Stephen Binney, a regular observer of DeKalb County politics, also spoke against continuing the contract.

“I think you need to wash your hands,” Binney said, “and get out of this situation as quickly as possible.”

DeKalb finalized its licensing agreement for Konnech’s PollChief software only last month, signing a one-year, $76,000 contract. The software helps elections staff manage scheduling and training for poll workers and is not connected to any voting equipment, nor does it have access to voter information.

Last week, Konnech founder and president Eugene Yu was detained near his firm’s Michigan headquarters. Authorities there were acting on behalf of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.

The California prosecutor later said that, under its contract with LA County, Konnech was “supposed to securely maintain” personal information of local poll workers and ensure that “only United States citizens and permanent residents have access to it.”

Investigators allegedly found that some information was instead being stored on servers in the People’s Republic of China.

Few other details have been released.

But Yu’s arrest — which Konnech has decried, describing it as a “wrongful detention” — came after months of targeting by election deniers and conspiracy theorists like the group known as True the Vote. That group has suggested that Yu, who was born in China, has secret ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

It has also claimed to have hacked Konnech’s systems and accessed the data of 2 million poll workers.

Konnech’s website previously boasted of having two dozen clients in North America but, according to media reports, that figure has dwindled since Yu’s arrest.

The city of Detroit and Fairfax County, Virginia, have cancelled their contracts with Konnech. Officials with the city of Minneapolis released a statement Friday saying they were “looking into the impact, if any,” on poll workers there.

DeKalb officials have said they were in the early stages of implementing the PollChief software and only publicly available information like the names, phone numbers and addresses of poll workers had been entered into the system.

Lowman Smith, the elections board chair, said the decision to move any such information to county-managed servers “would eliminate the concern of the data being placed somewhere where we are not in control.”

“There was not a [management] system in the past, there was not a system to default to,” Lowman Smith said. “It was manual and extremely time consuming. And it was not timely.”

Democratic board member Susan Motter said she voted to continue on with the software because “allegations are just that.” Motter, whose mother was a naturalized American citizen from Japan, also grew emotional as she talked about the whiff of anti-Asian sentiment surrounding Konnech and its founder.

She said someone recently told her to “go back where you come from” while she was running an errand.

“I have been seriously concerned with the subtext that has come with all of the discussion around this contract,” she said.

Early voting for November’s mid-term elections begins Oct. 17. DeKalb will employ between 1,700 and 1,800 poll workers during the election, officials said.


“The result of the vote is that the Board will pursue amendment of the contract to ensure that all data will be maintained in a DeKalb County-controlled Microsoft Azure Government tenant rather than on Konnech servers.  Additional security measures will include geofencing barriers preventing data ingress and egress as well as 24/7 monitored access control and logging. This means that the data used in the PollChief system may not be surreptitiously accessed, removed, or manipulated.”