Election security experts seek precautions after Coffee County breach

Hand-marked paper ballots and audits requested in Georgia elections

A group of computer scientists and election integrity advocates are calling for Georgia to abandon voting touchscreens and conduct more audits of this fall’s elections following the revelation that several supporters of Donald Trump coordinated the copying of election software in Coffee County.

They asked the State Election Board to switch to hand-marked paper ballots instead of continuing to use Dominion Voting Systems touchscreens that print out paper ballots, according to a letter sent Thursday.

“The release of the Dominion software into the wild has measurably increased the risk to the real and perceived security of the election to the point that emergency action is warranted,” said the letter by 13 people, including two Georgia Tech professors.

Several tech experts working for then-Trump attorney Sidney Powell copied an election server, memory cards and other voting equipment in Coffee County on Jan. 7, 2021, according to documents subpoenaed in a lawsuit. Security video showed that Cathy Latham, one of Georgia’s fake electors who tried to cast the state’s votes for Trump, escorted the technicians into the county elections office.

The letter to the State Election Board said the breach presents a danger that copied software could be exploited to create malware that could make voting equipment print incorrect votes, though there’s no evidence that has happened in an election so far. Three vote counts found that Democrat Joe Biden won Georgia in the 2020 presidential election, and investigations have repeatedly discredited claims of fraud.

The Coffee County data copying was made public through an election security lawsuit seeking hand-marked paper ballots.

State Election Board Chairman William Duffey said the FBI has been asked to assist ongoing investigations by the GBI and secretary of state’s office. He didn’t address the requests for hand-marked paper ballots and audits of every race on the ballot.

“The security of our election equipment is of paramount interest to the State Election Board, as is the integrity of the election process in Georgia,” Duffey said Thursday. “The investigation is active and ongoing. Information developed will be considered to evaluate the impact of the Coffee County conduct.”

ExploreHandling of Georgia election breach investigation questioned

A spokesman for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office said Georgia’s voting system is kept safe by physical controls, paper ballots, testing and disconnected machines distributed across the state.

“The results of the upcoming election will accurately reflect the will of Georgia voters,” said Mike Hassinger, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. “The people in question are no longer part of the system. The equipment in question has been replaced. The voting system in Georgia is secure.”

The letter to the State Election Board was signed by two former election officials from other states, members of the organizations Citizens for Better Elections and Free Speech for People, and professors from several universities, including Georgia Tech cybersecurity professors Mustaque Ahamad and Richard DeMillo.

Six of the signers are witnesses or consultants for the plaintiffs in their election security lawsuit against the state.

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