Georgia Democrats Vote to Keep Konnech Election Software Despite Accusation of Storing Sensitive Data in Communist China

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The DeKalb Board of Registration and Elections of Georgia held a special meeting Monday to discuss the contract it has with Konnech, an election software company. The board voted 3-1 to keep the contract, despite Eugene Yu being arrested on October 4th on charges of personal data theft. Yu was accused of storing sensitive American information on servers located in communist China.

The two Republican members of the election board opposed this decision. Other counties and municipalities had canceled their contracts to increase election security.

The arrest

Eugene Yu (51), the chief executive officer of Konnech was arrested in Meridian Township, Michigan, on October 4th, under suspicion of stealing personal identifying information.

Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office dispatched investigators in order to seize hard drives, and other “digital evidence”, relevant to the charges.

Konnech has licensed PollChief, a proprietary software. Los Angeles County has a $2.9 million contract for the five-year management of election workers.

PollChief was licensed by DeKalb County on September 8. It requires that election workers provide personal identifying information. Konnech keeps this information.

Although the company claimed previously that all its data was stored on servers located in the United States of America, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon stated that Konnech “allegedly violated his contract by storing critical information provided by workers on servers situated in China,” Yu’s home from 1986 to 1986.

Gascon stated in a statement that Yu was arrested, “Data breaches pose a continuing threat to our digital life.” If we trust a company with our sensitive data, they should be able and willing to protect our personal information from theft. We all become victims if we don’t.

Gascon stated, “We intend to hold all persons responsible for this breach accountable.”

True the Vote, a non-profit organization for election integrity, was criticized for suggesting Konnech was guilty in the Yu case. True the Vote stated in a statement that it was honored to have played a minor role in the “wide-ranging and complex” events.

True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht stated that “Electricity should not be a political issue. Nor should media try suppressing all discussion about it in a manner that benefits one side.”

After Yu’s arrest, we are bolstering election security.

Detroit, which also used Konnech’s PollChief program, canceled its $320,000 contract last week. Detroit City Council approved the contract last year and it was set to expire in June 2024.

WDET reported that Konnech had created a variety of election-related solutions for the area, including software for scanning ballots and an app for Uninformed or Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act returned votes.

Janice Winfrey, City Clerk, stated that “our data… are now under our exclusive control” as a result. She stated, “All proper steps are being taken out of abundance and caution.”

Winfrey stated that he was confident that 2022’s election process would produce “an unimpeachable product.”

Fairfax County, Virginia has also canceled its Konnech contract.

Fairfax County Office of Elections General Register Eric Spicer wrote an October 6 email that stated: “Out of an abundance of precaution, on Wednesday, October 5, 2022, the Fairfax County Office of Elections discontinued its use of PollChief”.

Spicer stated that Konnech was instructed to immediately provide Fairfax County a copy of all election officer data; to immediately take down all public facing systems, and to delete all customer data as part of the notice contract termination letter.

Fairfax Republicans claim that the PollChief database contains data from certain American election offices. This data could have been stored on servers in China accessible to communist parties.

Names

Mailing addresses

Phone numbers

Email addresses

Dates of birth

Social security numbers

Banking information

Parties affiliated with;

Active/inactive status.

According to Fairfax GOP Election Integrity Working Group, Konnech allegedly stored data in China on servers in August. This was due to the online public briefing by True the Vote, which was labeled a conspiracy group by the New York Times until the day before Yu was arrested.

Fairfax Republicans tried for weeks to resolve security concerns related to Konnech’s county, but it wasn’t until Yu was arrested that the Fairfax County Office of Elections stopped using all PollChief applications.

Minneapolis could also be taking corrective measures.

On October 7, Konnech was accused of “inappropriate handling personal identifying information regarding Los Angeles County poll workers”. The city also stated that Minneapolis uses the software to schedule and manage its poll workers.

“The City takes these allegations seriously and we are investigating the impact, if at all, on data related to Minneapolis poll workers,” stated the Minneapolis Elections & Voter Services statement.

DeKalb doubles down

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, DeKalb County will use Konnech election software. However, the contract will be modified so that sensitive data of poll workers will be stored on local servers.

Dele Lowman Smith (Democrat Chairwoman), who supported the decision, stated that the amended contract would ensure data is securely stored and help the board maximize efficiency.

Smith’s confidence was shored up just one week after telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The more we dig into this and try to get information, I think the more we realize that we don’t know anything.”

Nancy Jester, a Republican dissident, and Anthony Lewis, a Republican dissenter, weren’t as enthusiastic about the county’s continued dependence on service at the center of a criminal investigation.

Jester stated that the decision causes him a lot of heartburn.

Marci McCarthy, DeKalb GOP Chairwoman, wrote an October 5 letter to the election board stating that “The DeKalb Elections Office was committed to the physical safety of its poll workers, and election staff. … It should do what is right and ensure their cyber safety in the digital age and protect their personal information.”

Mary Williams Benefield (the Georgia House of Representatives Candidate) stated in an October 7 Letter to the Elections Board: “I am appalled. Not surprised but appalled by the offhand, unprofessional manner in which you dismissed LEGITIMATE concerns about this matter.”

McCarthy, who noted the outcome of the election on October 10, tweeted that DeKalb’s Democrats would rather join with alleged criminals than ensure the safety of its residents.

DeKalb County opens early voting for the midterm election on October 17th