ATLANTA - The Georgia State Election Board held a meeting Wednesday meant to reassure board members and the general public that the state’s elections remain secure following the revelation of a breach of voting equipment in one county.
The meeting included a presentation on state election law, an explanation of how the state’s voting machines work and a description of post-election audits. It also included a report on the breach of voting equipment in rural Coffee County.
"I think what happened in Coffee County was despicable," board 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 there and in other counties know that we are not going to put up with that," he said.
While acknowledging the serious concerns raised by that breach, the board members said they remain confident in the state’s election system.
Sara Tindall Ghazal, the state Democratic Party’s appointee to the board, said elections have to balance three "sometimes-competing interests" — security, accessibility and efficient administration.
"Georgia’s system reflects an attempt to balance these issues and interests," she said. "I have trust in our election officials and in our voters to ensure that our elections will proceed smoothly and securely and that the outcome will reflect the will of the voters."
A computer forensics team hired by allies of then-President Donald Trump traveled to the elections office in Coffee County, about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta, on Jan. 7, 2021, and made complete copies of data and software on elections equipment, according to documents and deposition testimony produced in response to subpoenas in a long-running lawsuit challenging the security of the state’s voting machines. Security camera video from the elections office shows that local Republican Party and county election officials were present when the copying took place.
The video also shows that two men who have participated in efforts to question the results of the 2020 election in several states repeatedly visited the Coffee County elections office later that month, spending hours inside.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the secretary of state’s office are looking into the breach. Since similar activity has happened in other states, the FBI has also been contacted, Duffey said. An Atlanta-based prosecutor looking into attempts by Trump to overturn his loss in the state is also seeking to question people involved.