Lawfare deep dive by Anna Bower:
Days before the forensics team sets foot in Douglas, which is about 130 miles southwest of Savannah, voters had arrived at the elections office to mark their ballots in the state’s runoff election for the U.S. Senate, a race that would tip the balance of power in the upper house of Congress. Two months before that, some 15,000 people flocked to the polls in the rural county, as Joe Biden and Donald Trump battled for the presidency. Later, in a recorded phone call entered as evidence in litigation, Hall will claim that the forensics group “scanned every freaking ballot” cast in those races.
“They scanned all the equipment, imaged all the hard drives, and scanned every single ballot,” he will say in March 2021.
Throughout the month of January 2021, similar breaches occur on at least three other occasions, as additional outsiders are again given access to the state’s voting equipment. Forensic copies are subsequently accessed by more than a dozen individuals across several states, the court records show.
Until Monday, no individual involved in the apparent breach in Coffee County had been held accountable. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has said that it has been investigating the matter for more than a year, prompting questions about the sluggishness of the investigation. An open records request submitted by Lawfare to Coffee County reveals that the GBI recently seized the desktop computer used by Hampton at the elections office—more than two and a half years after the breach. Meanwhile, at the federal level, there have been no public signs that the Justice Department or the office of Special Counsel Jack Smith has taken any steps to investigate the events in Coffee County, despite calls for them to do so.
A separate open records request submitted by Lawfare returned no responsive documents for subpoenas or other communications between Coffee County elections officials and federal law enforcement authorities. A spokesperson for the special counsel’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Yet, just over 200 miles from Douglas, in Atlanta, one prosecutor has taken a deep interest in the events in Coffee County.
In her sweeping indictment handed up on Monday, the Coffee County breach features prominently throughout. Powell, Latham, Hall, and Hampton are all charged under the mammoth indictment’s racketeering charge, which alleges that “several of the Defendants corruptly conspired … to unlawfully access secure voting equipment and voter data” and “stole data, including ballot images, voting equipment software and personal voter information.” According to the indictment, the “stolen data was then distributed to other members of the enterprise, including members in other states.”
In addition, Powell, Latham, Hall, and Hampton face charges of conspiracy to commit election fraud (Counts 32-33), conspiracy to commit computer theft (Count 34), conspiracy to commit computer trespass (Count 35), conspiracy to commit computer invasion of privacy (Count 36), and conspiracy to defraud the state (Count 37).