Investigation probes effort to copy election data in another Georgia county

Credit: Miguel Martinez for the AJC

Credit: Miguel Martinez for the AJC

Atlanta tech firm SullivanStrickler involved in both Spalding and Coffee

The tech company that copied election data in Coffee County was also considered for similar work in Spalding County, prompting a new investigation in Georgia, State Elections Board Chairman William Duffey said.

The company, Atlanta-based SullivanStrickler, communicated with the Spalding County elections board in August 2021 about an agreement to collect information from election management systems, Duffey said during a State Election Board meeting Wednesday.

The agreement wasn’t finalized, and unlike in Coffee County, it doesn’t appear that SullivanStrickler actually copied data in Spalding County, Duffey said. Georgia election equipment is supposed to be kept secure from potential tampering, and the GBI is already conducting a criminal investigation into computer trespassing allegations in Coffee County’s elections office.

SullivanStrickler was hired by Sidney Powell, a former attorney for then-President Donald Trump, to copy files from Coffee County voting equipment, including the county’s main elections computer, ballot scanners, memory cards and voter check-in tablets on Jan. 7, 2021.

The firm also worked for Trump supporters on election data jobs in Michigan and Nevada, and the State Election Board has requested the FBI’s assistance with the GBI’s ongoing investigation.

“It was interesting that it’s the same company that went down to Coffee County. That raised my personal concern,” Duffey said. “In Spalding, it was appropriate to look into it, but it was not appropriate to say that we believe there is a suspicion of wrongful activity.”

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An attorney for SullivanStrickler, Amanda Clark Palmer, didn’t respond to requests for comment. She has previously said that the company was preserving election records in Coffee County under Powell’s direction. The company charged Powell $26,000 for the data collection and distributed the information to election skeptics across the country.

Clark Palmer told CNN that SullivanStrickler didn’t make digital images of any equipment in Spalding County, and the company will cooperate with law enforcement investigations.

An attorney for Spalding County, Stephanie Windham, said she couldn’t comment because of the ongoing investigation. She said the county is cooperating with the state inquiry.

Efforts to copy election information from Republican-leaning counties in several states followed unproven allegations of fraud by Trump supporters after the 2020 election, including claims that there were problems with equipment manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems.

Three ballot counts and multiple investigations upheld the results in Georgia that Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump, a Republican, by about 12,000 votes.

Duffey said it’s unclear why SullivanStrickler would have copied election information in Spalding County. He said he wants to better understand how the company became involved in election work in several counties.

“We’re looking into it to make sure that there isn’t any suspicion. But if we look into it and find out there is, then we will take the same track that we did in Coffee,” Duffey said. “I would just say that the chances that they’ve done something that they weren’t supposed to do is probably small, but it doesn’t mean that the public is not entitled to have us look into it.”

Georgia election officials and Dominion CEO John Poulos said Wednesday that voting equipment is secure ahead of this year’s elections.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ordered the replacement of some voting equipment in Coffee County last week, a move that would cost about $400,000 if it were bought new. Some of the equipment might be returnable or obtained at a discount.

But a group of computer scientists and election integrity advocates recently warned that the release of Dominion software and data increased the risk of election tampering. They said 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.