SOPERTON, Ga. — State investigators have seized an election server in a rural Georgia county after the county hired an election director who was forced out of another county.
Treutlen County hired Misty Hampton, the Coffee County election director forced out of her job in 2021. On January 7, 2021 -- the day after the US capitol attack -- officials said Hampton allowed a group of Donald Trump associates into the secure area of that county’s election office as Trump was trying to overturn the 2020 election.
More than two months after that breach in Coffee County – about sixty miles north – Treutlen County hired Hampton to run a special election.
That gave her additional access to the state's computerized election equipment -- some of which state investigators seized earlier this spring.
"We just heard that something happened over there (in Coffee County) with the election. I really wasn’t sure what was going on with it," Treutlen County manager TJ Hudson, who hired Hampton to run a special election in his county, said to 11Alive on Monday.
"At that particular time, we did not have a clue what had been going on over there (in Coffee County)," Hudson said. "Absolutely it would have mattered (if he'd known.)"
But when asked if more knowledge of the Coffee County breach would have precluded Treutlen County from hiring Hampton, Hudson wavered.
"Well, we needed somebody to run elections and... we didn’t have anybody," he said.
As probate judge, Hudson was Treutlen County's director of elections before he resigned. The special election run by Hampton was to replace Hudson. The county commission later hired Hudson as county manager. A newly elected probate judge now runs elections in Treutlen County. Hudson says Hampton's contract with Treutlen County ended after the special election.
"Over here (in Treutlen County), it’s secure. We don’t have anything to hide, so I don’t think (Hampton's past) would have made a difference with me," said Hudson, a GOP candidate for Secretary of State in 2022. He finished well behind incumbent Brad Raffensperger with less than 6% of the GOP primary vote.
When asked about the security breach in Coffee County, Hudson said, "that wouldn’t have happened here. That’s something that I don’t allow." If it happened out of his view, he said county workers would have tipped him off to it.
During a board meeting, Treutlen commissioner Thalia Gillis questioned Hudson about the hiring of Hampton, asking if Hampton had access to voting machines and software. Hudson said he'd known Hampton through an informal network of county election officials in Georgia.
In April 2023, an investigator with the Georgia Secretary of State's office seized Treutlen County’s election server to check for possible security compromises – as investigators had done at Hampton’s previous workplace in Coffee County.
Olivia Coley-Pearson, a city commissioner in the Coffee County city of Douglas, told us she is stunned that Hampton was invited into another Georgia county to run another election.
"We don’t know how far spread this thing might really reach," Coley-Pearson told 11Alive News. "That was a disservice to the residents of Treutlen County. And I’m appalled. Nobody should allow her to do anything concerning elections with her history."
No charges have been filed in the Coffee County case, according to the GBI. As has been the case for months, the GBI says the case remains under investigation.