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At Tuesday morning’s regular meeting of the Board of Elections and Registration, board member Ernestine Thomas-Clark made a motion to accept a resolution presented to the board seeking an internal investigation, which would be conducted by independent legal counsel, to investigate the alleged breaches of the Coffee County elections system that took place in January of 2021. Retired local attorney Jim Hudson wrote the resolution and sent it to each board member electronically before the meeting.
Thomas-Clark’s motion did not pass due to a lack of a second. However, board members then voted to table the motion for two weeks to give each member time to review and consider the resolution. The board will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. on June 20, 2023, to further discuss and, presumably, vote on the resolution.
Hudson was one of five citizens who addressed the board Tuesday morning. The others included city commissioner Olivia Pearson, Larry NeSmith, and James Perry, all of Douglas; and Katherine Grant of Valdosta.
Comments all focused on the alleged breach of the Coffee County election office in January of 2021. The first such incident occurred on January 7, 2021; two others followed later during the month. In each incident, unauthorized individuals were allowed to inspect, copy, and remove software from Coffee County’s voting system. Those individuals are believed to be operatives associated with former President Donald Trump and his 2020 re-election campaign.
News coverage of the alleged breach has been extensive. However, a number of questions still remain unanswered. People in Coffee County (and throughout the nation) want answers but no one is talking. Thus far, no local agency or office has released a statement regarding the alleged breach. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has released a couple of statements assuring Georgia voters that the state’s voting system in general and Coffee County’s in particular is safe.
Those who have are following the story (and conducting their own sleuthing of the events of January 2021) remain unconvinced. Hence Mr. Hudson’s resolution.
The elections board will meet on June 20 to decide the next steps.
The complete text of Mr. Hudson’s resolution can be seen below:
WHEREAS, the Coffee County Board of Elections and Registration (hereinafter “Election Board”) is committed to the open, transparent, and legally compliant administration of all election activities; and,
WHEREAS, the Election Board has received evidence of alleged violations of the voting system security protocols including unauthorized access of the voting system occurring in January, 2021; and,
WHEREAS, the Election Board requires additional information regarding the alleged breaches of the voting system to properly assess any necessary remedial actions; and,
WHEREAS, the Election Board believes that information regarding the alleged breach should be made promptly available to Coffee County voters to the fullest extent permitted by law; and
WHEREAS, ongoing law enforcement investigations, such as the Georgia Bureau of Investigations’ current investigation, have provided only limited information to the Election Board, and are not anticipated to address all concerns of the Election Board or provide a timely basis for election security improvements; and
WHEREAS, the Election Board requires the independent legal counsel to make complete and proper inquiries and examination of facts currently available in the records of Coffee County and within the knowledge of its officials concerning the alleged breach on behalf of the Election Board; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Election Board and it is so ordered and resolved by the authority of the same that:
- The Election Board shall promptly solicit proposals for the conduct of an internal investigation of the facts currently available in Coffee County records and within the knowledge of its officials, concerning the alleged breach from at least three recognized respected law firms, including public interest law firms, with relevant investigations experience. Unsolicited proposals shall also be received and reviewed on the same basis as the solicited proposals.
- Requested proposals for internal investigation shall be received no later than July 1, 2023, and interviews of at least three law firms, selected by the Election Board shall be conducted no later than July 15, 2023, with selection of counsel no later than August 1, 2023.
- The Chairman of the Election Board shall promptly notify the Coffee County Board of Commissioners of this action and request consideration of special funding for the internal investigation based on the proposals received.
- Election Board meetings conducted with respect to selection of independent counsel for the internal investigation or matters related to the independent counsel’s investigation shall be properly noticed public meetings, conducted in public, with the limited exception of receiving specific legal advice for taking board action related to prosecutable offenses.
- The Election Board hereby declares that the foregoing preamble and whereas provisions of the Resolution are hereby incorporated by reference into this provision.
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