COFFEE COUNTY, Ga. — Georgia's secretary of state's office is investigating whether an activist had inappropriate access to an election server in a county in 2021.
The Washington Post reported Friday that election officials in Coffee County may have given access to a man who was part of a network of Donald Trump supporters exploring ways to undo the November 2020 election.
If true, it raises new questions about the security of Georgia’s computerized voting machines.
Although Republicans led by former President Donald Trump have complained about election security since Trump lost in 2020, tech experts have warned for years that computerized elections systems are vulnerable to hacking. Accessing servers, as allegedly happened in Coffee County, is one step toward successfully infecting election systems, they say.
The Post obtained audio purportedly from an election denier named Scott Hall who claimed he led a team that copied election computer software in the south Georgia county – potentially exposing election computers across the state to hacking.
"They went down to Coffee County, Georgia," Hall's voice reportedly says in the audio. "They went in there and imaged every hard drive of every piece of equipment. All the poll pads. Everything."
Election activist Marilyn Marks of the Coalition for Good Governance recorded the conversation.
In a statement, Marks said:
"CGG is calling for a thorough and transparent investigation into the alleged election security breach in Coffee County and for Georgia officials to immediately mitigate the risk of election interference by limiting the use of electronic ballot marking devices."
11Alive previously reported that Democratic, Republicans and Libertarian candidates have petitioned the state election board to use emergency rules to switch to hand-marked paper ballots during the remainder of the 2022 primary election. The SEB has not responded.
"Here’s the facts. Georgia’s now recognized as number one in election integrity," Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in an Atlanta Press Club debate last week.
He has been a staunch defender of the state’s computerized voting system– even though many states have switched back to paper. Ten years ago, only 37 percent of voters were using hand-marked paper ballots. Now it’s 67 percent, according to verifiedvoting.org.
Republican secretary of state candidate David Belle Isle, as well as Democrats Bee Nguyen, Dee Dawkins-Haigler, and John Eaves said they have called for the state to switch away from computerized ballot marking devices.
Republican TJ Hudson said he prefers the computerized system. Democrats Michael Owens and Floyd Griffin said they would consider it as part of a broader security overhaul. Jody Hice did not respond to a request for his position.
"Every expert in cybersecurity told us hand-marked paper ballots with an auditable trail is the most secure form of voting," Nguyen, a state representative, said during an Atlanta Press Club debate.
The Secretary of State’s office is now investigating what happened in Coffee County and to what extent it may expose Georgia’s computerized voting machines to hackers.