Investigation into conduct of 2020 Coffee County election revives Georgia voting machine lawsuit

A longstanding federal lawsuit challenging the security of Georgia’s electoral system is now embroiled in a dispute over the handling of an investigation into allegations that 2020 election skeptics unlawfully violated a county’s electoral system.

Lawyers representing the Coalition for Good Governance and other election security advocates will attempt to wrap up depositions in the coming weeks and obtain further evidence regarding the charges that Coffee County election officials granted activists access to the Dominion’s voting system, a frequent target of conspiracy theories. linked to Republican President Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden.

Among the dozen Coffee County-related subpoenas filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia was one last month for Cyber ​​Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, whose company was behind the poor quality audit of Maricopa County in Arizona in its administration of the 2020 presidential election. Cyber ​​Ninjas is linked to digital security officer Benjamin Cotton, who claimed in another investigation that he forensically examined the voting systems in Coffee County and several other battleground states.

State election officials took down the county’s election server shortly after a newly hired Coffee County Elections Officer notified the state that the password no longer worked and he had found the Logan’s business card on a desktop in April 2021.

In recent court filings, plaintiffs’ attorneys accuse the secretary of state’s office of withholding information and allege the state deliberately delayed investigating a breach that threatens a system the state has staunchly defended.

State attorneys said the information either passed to the attorney general’s office or should remain confidential until the state election commission. receives the conclusions of the Secretary of State’s investigation.

State’s Attorney Vincent Russo filed a brief last week, saying Georgia provided summaries and a lot of information could be gleaned from Coffee County testimony and county records. Russo argues the case is tangential to a long-sought injunction over Georgia’s use of electronic voting machines and ballot-marking devices in favor hand-marked paper ballots.

“An injunction would not resolve plaintiffs’ claims regarding Dominion Voting Systems (BMD),” Russo wrote. “In other words, even though the defendants in this case (and the 158 counties in Georgia not party to this litigation) perfectly administered each election in every respect and perfectly secured the (voting materials), plaintiffs would always remain dissatisfied without dismissal from the BMDs themselves.

David Cross, an attorney for the plaintiffs who issued the subpoenas, said details about a server takedown are scarce because state officials have “sticked their heads in the sand” instead of actively prosecuting. a situation they had been aware of for over a year.

“Shortly after the 2020 presidential election, former Coffee County Election Supervisor Misty Hampton made a video that went viral on YouTube claiming to show Dominion voting materials could be manipulated,” Cross wrote in a court filing on Friday.

“Coffee County admitted this week that, pursuant to plaintiffs’ subpoenas, it ‘has recently been able to retrieve the items on the phone issued by Misty Hampton’s Coffee County’ and intends to produce them to the parties,” Cross added. . “No investigation (if any) had recovered these items prior to the plaintiffs’ subpoenas.”

Cross clients also want to hear from Atlanta backer Scott Hall about the plane he said he provided to fly a team to South Georgia County of about 43,000 shortly after the 2020 election.

In May, Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, released a taped March 2021 phone conversation with Hall that reopened the state’s investigation. In that appeal, Hall explains how the group was able to copy Coffee County voting records in an effort to discredit the machines and justify Trump’s overtures to overturn the results.

The Coffee County case illustrates how the state is relying on technology that isn’t secure enough to prevent bad actors from interfering in elections, Marks said.

“Unfortunately, for years our theme has been that vulnerabilities in this system can be exploited and cannot be detected or mitigated as long as we vote on touch screens,” she said.

Hampton claimed that an election committee chairman at the time invited the group to look at the equipment. Some other potential witnesses dispute the accusations that the server was compromised or that such a visit even took place.

The initial investigation into the condition of the cafe began after its the electoral commission refused to certify the 2020 election following a 50-vote gap in a recount and in Hampton revealing a password while explaining how to change votes in online videos.

In a teleconference hearing in July, Judge Amy Totenberg said the secretary of state officials gave inadequate answers about the violation of their depositions and that all of the state’s evidence could not support it. theory to be “hidden under investigative privilege”.

Totenberg criticized Dominion machines for recording votes in a QR code or barcode opaque to voters, before printing out hard copies of ballots for review and scanning.

Just two months before the November statewide election, Totenberg has set a Sept. 2 deadline to complete depositions and submit other documents.

“I’m not going to be drowned out by what happened with Coffee County, but I think there have to be straight answers to some of these issues,” she said at the hearing on the 15th. July.

Federal agency calls for unseal of voting machine security report

A federal cybersecurity agency gives Totenberg the green light to release an independent report that Georgia relies on digital technology more susceptible to compromise.

In a letter filed late last week, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said steps had been taken recently to reduce election security threats that warranted keeping the ordered report sealed. by the court since last summer.

Totenberg is expected to decide soon whether it will release the findings of Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer science professor and expert witness for Cross’ clients. Halderman says he has discovered multiple serious security flaws in Georgia’s electronic voting machines, including ways in which malware can manipulate barcodes.

Halderman’s assertion of how the platform could be exploited was bolstered by a June cybersecurity agency advisory on vulnerabilities in voting machines used in Georgia and several other states.

The federal cybersecurity warning says there are no signs that hackers were involved in interference in the 2020 election, but future elections could be compromised by someone with unauthorized access.

“It has now been 49 days since the publication of the CISA advisory, which has provided affected end users with additional time to implement the recommended mitigations contained in the CISA public advisory. “wrote Bryan Boynton, senior assistant deputy attorney general for the cybersecurity agency. “In light of these facts, CISA respectfully submits that the most recent redactions proposed by Complainants appropriately manage election security risk while advancing security through transparency.”

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger also called for the report to become public, likening Halderman’s unfettered access to the state’s voting system to handing someone a house key and a alarm code.

Meanwhile, Dominion demanded to see the analysis redacted, and company executives criticized Halderman for not properly considering safeguards already in place.

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