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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Details of voting equipment breach emerge in Dominion security trial

While the lawsuit was filed in 2017, events that occurred immediately following the 2020 presidential election took up the court's time Friday.

ATLANTA (CN) — During the fourth day of trial Friday in the lawsuit over the security of Dominion voting machine systems in Georgia, details surrounding a hack coordinated by co-defendants of former President Donald Trump in the Peach State's election subversion case took center stage.

The copying of confidential election data from an elections office in rural Coffee County was purportedly arranged by a group of individuals who are now indicted alongside Trump on election interference charges. The indictment accuses them of paying SullivanStrickler, an Atlanta tech company to access the machines the day after the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. capitol.

Further details surrounding the breach have now become a large piece of a yearslong legal battle over how the state manages the security of its voting machines and data. A group of voters and the Coalition for Good Governance, a nonprofit that focuses on election transparency, argue the incident highlights vulnerabilities in the Dominion ballot matching devices that leave it susceptible to cybersecurity risks.

Counsel for the plaintiffs questioned Ryan Germany, former general counsel for the secretary of state, about how the office responded to and investigated the breach.

They claimed that following Georgia's Jan. 5, 2021, runoff elections for the state’s two U.S. Senate seats, an "election managements system" was swapped out for a new one in the county. Attorney David Cross argued that this was the only incident of a replacement since the new machines were implemented in late 2019.

Germany testified the system was replaced with a new one because techs for Dominion were unable to access it. He said it was "unrelated" to the discovery of a Cyber Ninja Tech business card found on the desk of Coffee County’s elections supervisor Misty Hampton around the same time. Hampton faces seven charges in the Trump case related to her role in the equipment breach.

"I don't think I would have worded it in my mind as a threat to the election system," Germany said of his reaction to learning of the breach. He said that part of the office's daily role is dealing with various possible threats.

On Thursday, Robert Sinners, who was the Trump campaign’s director of Election Day operations in Georgia and is now the communications director for the secretary of state, shared his interactions with Coffee County following the 2020 election.

Sinners testified Hampton reached out to him after the election, urging him to review an elections board meeting held after the election that "the Trump campaign might be interested in." Coffee County officials refused to certify their initial and recount election results, telling state officials in a Dec. 4 letter that the Dominion machines were not functioning properly and had failed to “repeatably duplicate creditable election results.”

Hampton also made a video that went viral online, trying to show that voting machines used in her county could be manipulated. State investigators later concluded that the difficulties county officials experienced were a result of human error.

The lawsuit over Georgia's voting machine system was filed in 2017 over vulnerabilities in the state's previously used direct-recording electronic voting machine system. After U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg agreed with the plaintiffs' original claims that the system was outdated and "highly susceptible to manipulation and malfunction," she ordered the state to update its system.

But the plaintiffs in the case claim that the current Dominion system is still not "voter-verifiable, secure, or reliable" and has some of the same cybersecurity vulnerabilities posed by the former voting system. While they have urged the state to use hand-marked paper ballots, the judge said that she can not order the Legislature to do so.

The state claims all types of voting systems face potential risks, including voting on paper, and that there is no evidence of any vote cast being altered or manipulated in an election.

While a circuit court ruled that Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is not required to testify in the case, his chief operating officer Gabriel Sterling, state elections director Blake Evans and other members of the State Election Board are expected to be called in as witnesses.

The bench trial began Tuesday and is expected to continue for another two weeks.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are pushing for an August start date for Trump's election interference trial. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee held a hearing Friday, discussing motions seeking to dismiss the case filed by defendants. They included arguments from co-defendant Robert Cheely's attorney that the racketeering indictment isn't directed to any "facial, economic or bodily harm," and an attempt by Trump's lawyer Steve Sadow to see if prosecutors were withholding possible information from the Jan. 6 House committee investigation.

Fulton County prosecutors rejected the arguments, but the judge granted them time to file in their formal responses.

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Categories / Politics, Trials

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