Georgia Official Says County’s Voting Equipment Will Be Replaced

ATLANTA — Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, said on Friday that his office would replace voting equipment in Coffee County, where allies of former President Donald J. Trump and contractors working on Mr. Trump’s behalf copied software and other data after the 2020 election.

But in a statement, a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit contending that Georgia’s statewide voting system is fundamentally insecure in the wake of the Trump allies’ visit to Coffee County called the changes “embarrassingly thin” and “cosmetic.” The statement said the server for the county’s election management system remained “potentially contaminated.”

The move by Mr. Raffensperger, a Republican, comes after the plaintiffs complained that he was moving too slowly to address the security breach in Coffee County, which took place in January 2021. The Trump allies, presumably looking for evidence of fraud, copied data and software with the blessing of local elections officials.

One Trump supporter involved in the breach, Scott Hall, said in a recorded phone call that the team that traveled to Coffee County, roughly 200 miles southeast of Atlanta, had “scanned all the equipment, imaged all the hard drives and scanned every single ballot.”

Mr. Raffensperger’s office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are investigating the breach, which Mr. Raffensperger referred to in a statement as “the unauthorized access to the equipment that former Coffee County election officials allowed in violation of Georgia law.”

Understand Georgia’s Investigation of Election Interference

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An immediate legal threat to Trump. Fani T. Willis, the Atlanta area district attorney, has been investigating whether former President Donald J. Trump and his allies interfered with the 2020 election in Georgia. The case could be one of the most perilous legal problems for Mr. Trump. Here’s what to know:

Looking for votes. Prosecutors in Georgia opened their investigation in February 2021, just weeks after Mr. Trump made a phone call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, and urged him to “find” enough votes to overturn the results of the election there.

What are prosecutors looking at? In addition to Mr. Trump’s call to Mr. Raffensperger, Ms. Willis has homed in on a plot by Trump allies to send fake Georgia electors to Washington and misstatements about the election results made before the state legislature by Rudolph W. Giuliani, who spearheaded efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power as his personal lawyer. An election data breach in Coffee County, Ga., is also part of the investigation.

Who is under scrutiny? Mr. Giuliani has been told that he is a target of the investigation, and prosecutors have warned some state officials and pro-Trump “alternate electors” that they could be indicted. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, has been fighting efforts to force him to testify before a grand jury, but a federal judge ruled that he can be questioned about his election activity.

The potential charges. Experts say that Ms. Willis appears to be building a case that could target multiple defendants with charges of conspiracy to commit election fraud or racketeering-related charges for engaging in a coordinated scheme to undermine the election.

“To allay the fears being stoked by perennial election deniers and conspiracy theorists, we’re replacing Coffee County’s election machines,” said the statement released on Friday. “The investigation into the former Coffee County election officials who allowed the unauthorized access continues, and anyone who broke the law should be punished to its full extent.”

Poll pads in an office in Coffee County after the 2020 election.Credit…Coffee County Elections Office

Mr. Raffensperger also said the decision would help reassure local officials throughout the state who were preparing for the elections in November. “Replacing the equipment puts an end to any argument that the results in Coffee County, and anywhere else in Georgia for that matter, will not accurately reflect the will of Georgia voters,” the statement said.

Scrutiny of the Coffee County breach has intensified in recent days with the release of batches of security camera video showing the arrival of Trump supporters at the local elections office in January 2021. Employees of an Atlanta-based tech firm, SullivanStrickler, which had been hired by Sidney Powell, a lawyer advising Mr. Trump who is also a conspiracy theorist, were also shown arriving.

It was part of an effort by Trump allies in a number of swing states to gain access to and copy sensitive election software, with the help of friendly election administrators.

In the latest batch of security videos, made public this week, members of the team can be seen inside an office handling the county’s poll pads, which contain sensitive voter data.

David Cross, a lawyer representing some of the plaintiffs in the civil litigation, has said the information that was copied includes the software used by all 159 of Georgia’s counties. According to Mr. Cross, software and other data were uploaded to the internet by SullivanStrickler after being copied, creating the potential for manipulation of the system anywhere in the state. No proof of such manipulation has emerged.

Mr. Raffensperger, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said in his statement on Friday that Coffee County’s election management server and a central scanner workstation had already been replaced. The new replacement equipment, he said, will include ballot marking devices, printers, precinct scanners, poll pads, flash cards and thumb drives.

Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said in a statement that Mr. Raffensperger’s move was “many days late and many dollars short.”

“Starting with fresh touch screens and scanners only to expose them to a presumably contaminated server makes little sense to anyone remotely concerned about election security,” she said.

SullivanStrickler, the data company, has denied any wrongdoing. In a statement on Tuesday morning, the company said it had received a subpoena from a special grand jury in Fulton County convened by Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, who is heading a broad criminal investigation into efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn Mr. Trump’s narrow election loss in the state.

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