The Georgia State Elections Committee held a meeting on Wednesday aimed at reassuring council members and the general public that the state’s election remains secure after a breach of voting equipment was revealed in a county.
The meeting included a presentation on state election law, an explanation of how state voting machines work, and a description of post-election audits. It also included a report on the criminal investigation into violation of voting materials in rural Coffee County.
“I think what happened in Coffee County was despicable,” council chairman William Duffey, a retired federal judge, said after the meeting. If the investigation finds evidence of crimes, the penalties should be significant “to let people know there and in other counties that we’re not going to accept this,” he said.
While acknowledging the serious concerns raised by this breach, council members cited the security measures outlined at the meeting and said they remained confident in the state’s electoral system.
Sara Tindall Ghazal, the state’s Democratic Party representative on the board, said the elections had to balance three “sometimes competing interests” – security, accessibility and efficient administration.
“The Georgian system reflects an attempt to balance these issues and interests,” she said. “I have faith in our election officials and our voters to ensure that our elections will be smooth and safe and that the outcome will reflect the will of the voters.”
A computer forensics team hired by allies of then-President Donald Trump visited the Coffee County Elections Office, about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta, on January 7, 2021, and made full copies of election equipment data and software, according to documents and deposition evidence produced in response to subpoenas in a long-running lawsuit challenging the security of state voting machines. Elections office security camera video shows that local Republican Party and county election officials were present when the copying took place.
The video also shows that two men who participated in efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election in several states repeatedly visited the Coffee County Elections Office later that month, spending hours on the inside.
Earlier this month, a group of IT and election security experts sent a letter to the state Board of Elections saying the breach posed “serious threats” to the state’s voting system. The experts include academics and former state election officials and are not associated with efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. They urged the council to replace the machines vote at the state’s Dominion Voting Systems touchscreen by hand-marked paper ballots.
In a presentation on the state’s election law, Republican Elections Board member Matt Mashburn said the board could only impose such an emergency measure if there was “imminent peril to health, public safety or welfare”.
Ballots printed by Georgia’s voting machines include a QR code — a barcode that is read and compiled by a scanner — and a human-readable list representing the voter’s selections.
Dominion CEO John Poulos appeared by videoconference and walked members of the election committee through how the voting system works. He pointed to various security measures, including encryption, passwords, physical seals and tests carried out in public before the elections. He said it is very important for voters to verify that the list on the ballot reflects their selections.
Blake Evans, Chief Electoral Officer for the Office of the Secretary of State, explained to board members the audit process Georgia now uses to verify a statewide run in the general election. even years. Risk-mitigating audits rely on statistics, math, and manual counting of a sample of ballots to ensure that the machine-tabulated result is accurate.
Voting machine critics said studies show voters rarely check their ballots. They say this means there is no guarantee that ballots accurately reflect voters’ intent, rendering any audit meaningless.
University of Michigan computer science professor J. Alex Halderman, an expert witness in the voting machine trial that exposed the Coffee County breach, identified what he says are security vulnerabilities in Georgia’s voting machines. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released an advisory in June based on Halderman’s findings that advises jurisdictions that use the machines on how to mitigate the risks.
Dominion commissioned its own review of Halderman’s findings by the MITER Corporation. An executive summary of this report deems the potential attacks identified as “operationally impractical”.
The Halderman and MITER reports were filed under seal in federal court. The election committee unanimously approved a motion by member Ed Lindsey, a former Republican lawmaker, to urge the judge handling the case to release the reports with the necessary redactions. Lindsey said it would allow the public to “assess and have confidence in our electoral system.”
The Independent Gt