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Election officials in Georgia discuss violations and security measures

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia State Board of Elections held a meeting Wednesday to reassure board members and the general public that the state’s elections remain secure after the revelations violation of voting equipment in one county.

The meeting included a presentation on state election laws, an explanation of how voting machines work in the state, and a description of post-election audits. It also included a report of voting equipment being tampered with in rural Coffey County.

“I think what happened in Coffee County was despicable,” board chairman William Duffy, a retired federal judge, said after the meeting. If the investigation finds evidence of wrongdoing, the fines should be significant “so that people there and in other countries know that we are not going to put up with this,” he said.

While acknowledging the serious concerns raised by the breach, board members said they remain confident in the state’s election system.

Sarah Tyndall Ghazal, the state’s Democratic appointee to the council, said the election must balance three “sometimes competing interests” — safety, affordability and efficient administration.

“Georgia’s system reflects an attempt to balance these issues and interests,” she said. “I have faith in our election officials and in our voters to ensure that our elections are conducted smoothly and safely and that the outcome reflects the will of the voters.”

A team of computer experts hired by allies of then-President Donald Trump went to an election office in Coffey County, about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta, on Jan. 7, 2021, and made complete copies of the data and software on election equipment, according to the documents and deposition testimony obtained in response to subpoenas in a long-running lawsuit challenging the security of the state’s voting machines. Security camera video from the election office shows that the local Republican Party and district elections officials were present when the copying took place.

The video also shows two men involved in efforts to cast doubt on the 2020 election results in several states, making multiple visits to the Coffey County election office later that month, spending hours there.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Secretary of State’s office are investigating the breach. Because similar activity was occurring in other states, the FBI was also contacted, Duffy said. The Atlanta prosecutor is also looking into Trump’s attempts to reverse his loss in the state looking for a question the people involved.

Earlier this month, a panel of experts on computer security and election security sent a letter to the State Election Commission, saying the breach poses a “serious threat” to the state’s voting system. Among the experts are academics and former state election officials not associated with attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. They called on the board to replace Dominion Voting Systems’ stock touch-screen voting machines with hand-marked paper ballots.

During a presentation on the state’s election law, Republican Board of Elections member Matt Mashburn said the board could impose such an emergency measure only in cases of “imminent danger to the public health, safety or welfare.”

Ballots printed by voting machines in Georgia contain a QR code — a barcode that is read and tabulated by a scanner — and a human-readable list representing the voter’s choices.

Dominion CEO John Pulos appeared via video conference and explained how the voting system works. He highlighted various security measures, including encryption, passwords, scanned backups of paper ballots, physical seals and public verification before elections. He said it’s important for voters to make sure the list on the ballot reflects their choice.

Blake Evans, director of elections for the secretary of state’s office, walked board members through the audit process Georgia now uses to audit one statewide race during even-numbered general elections. “Risk Limitation Checks” rely on statistics, mathematics, and manual counting of sample ballots to ensure that machine tabulation results are accurate.

Critics of voting machines say studies show voters rarely check their ballots. They say that means there’s no guarantee that the ballots accurately reflect voters’ intentions, making any audit pointless.

University of Michigan computer science professor J. Alex Halderman, an expert witness in the voting machine lawsuit that exposed the violation in Coffey County, identified what he said security system vulnerabilities in voting machines in Georgia. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in June issued a recommendation based on Halderman’s findings, which includes measures to reduce risks.

Dominion commissioned its own review of Halderman’s findings by the MITER Corporation. The summary of this report considers the potential attacks identified as “operationally impossible”.

The Halderman and MITER reports were filed under seal in federal court. The Election Commission unanimously supported the motion to have the presiding judge release the minutes with the necessary redactions. Board member Ed Lindsey, a former Republican state lawmaker, said it would allow the public to “evaluate and have confidence in our election system.”

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Election officials in Georgia discuss violations and security measures

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia State Board of Elections held a meeting Wednesday to reassure board members and the general public that the state’s elections remain secure after the revelations violation of voting equipment in one county.

The meeting included a presentation on state election laws, an explanation of how voting machines work in the state, and a description of post-election audits. It also included a report of voting equipment being tampered with in rural Coffey County.

“I think what happened in Coffee County was despicable,” board chairman William Duffy, a retired federal judge, said after the meeting. If the investigation finds evidence of wrongdoing, the fines should be significant “so that people there and in other countries know that we are not going to put up with this,” he said.

While acknowledging the serious concerns raised by the breach, board members said they remain confident in the state’s election system.

Sarah Tyndall Ghazal, the state’s Democratic appointee to the council, said the election must balance three “sometimes competing interests” — safety, affordability and efficient administration.

“Georgia’s system reflects an attempt to balance these issues and interests,” she said. “I have faith in our election officials and in our voters to ensure that our elections are conducted smoothly and safely and that the outcome reflects the will of the voters.”

A team of computer experts hired by allies of then-President Donald Trump went to an election office in Coffey County, about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta, on Jan. 7, 2021, and made complete copies of the data and software on election equipment, according to the documents and deposition testimony obtained in response to subpoenas in a long-running lawsuit challenging the security of the state’s voting machines. Security camera video from the election office shows that the local Republican Party and district elections officials were present when the copying took place.

The video also shows two men involved in efforts to cast doubt on the 2020 election results in several states, making multiple visits to the Coffey County election office later that month, spending hours there.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Secretary of State’s office are investigating the breach. Because similar activity was occurring in other states, the FBI was also contacted, Duffy said. The Atlanta prosecutor is also looking into Trump’s attempts to reverse his loss in the state looking for a question the people involved.

Earlier this month, a panel of experts on computer security and election security sent a letter to the State Election Commission, saying the breach poses a “serious threat” to the state’s voting system. Among the experts are academics and former state election officials not associated with attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. They called on the board to replace Dominion Voting Systems’ stock touch-screen voting machines with hand-marked paper ballots.

During a presentation on the state’s election law, Republican Board of Elections member Matt Mashburn said the board could impose such an emergency measure only in cases of “imminent danger to the public health, safety or welfare.”

Ballots printed by voting machines in Georgia contain a QR code — a barcode that is read and tabulated by a scanner — and a human-readable list representing the voter’s choices.

Dominion CEO John Pulos appeared via video conference and explained how the voting system works. He highlighted various security measures, including encryption, passwords, scanned backups of paper ballots, physical seals and public verification before elections. He said it’s important for voters to make sure the list on the ballot reflects their choice.

Blake Evans, director of elections for the secretary of state’s office, walked board members through the audit process Georgia now uses to audit one statewide race during even-numbered general elections. “Risk Limitation Checks” rely on statistics, mathematics, and manual counting of sample ballots to ensure that machine tabulation results are accurate.

Critics of voting machines say studies show voters rarely check their ballots. They say that means there’s no guarantee that the ballots accurately reflect voters’ intentions, making any audit pointless.

University of Michigan computer science professor J. Alex Halderman, an expert witness in the voting machine lawsuit that exposed the violation in Coffey County, identified what he said security system vulnerabilities in voting machines in Georgia. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in June issued a recommendation based on Halderman’s findings, which includes measures to reduce risks.

Dominion commissioned its own review of Halderman’s findings by the MITER Corporation. The summary of this report considers the potential attacks identified as “operationally impossible”.

The Halderman and MITER reports were filed under seal in federal court. The Election Commission unanimously supported the motion to have the presiding judge release the minutes with the necessary redactions. Board member Ed Lindsey, a former Republican state lawmaker, said it would allow the public to “evaluate and have confidence in our election system.”

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