Atlanta

Secretary of State’s Office opens investigation into Fulton County election information breach

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News has learned the Secretary of State’s Office has opened an investigation after Fulton County revealed last week that a poll worker emailed sensitive voter information to an unauthorized person.

A state official said Fulton County did report this to the Secretary of State’s Office, but it had already learned of it and opened an investigation, which will look at, among other things, whether this was an isolated incident as Fulton County said, as well as what it might say about Fulton County’s data security.

“We have investigators from the Secretary of State’s Office that have already opened up an investigation, and we’ll be interviewing everyone involved,” Raffensperger said. “It’s extremely troubling that that information was ever sent out. We’ll be doing a deep dive. We’re holding Fulton County accountable.”

T. Jonathan Stidom told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne that he got the email from a Fulton County elections worker who was to onboard him as a poll manager for the upcoming general election.

But an attachment labeled “poll worker application with enrollment info” shocked him when he opened it.

“I was just appalled. I was shocked. I was flabbergasted to see this information,” Stidom said. “What I saw was in excess of 1,900 names, addresses, date of births, Social Security numbers, email addresses, race, gender. What concerns me the most is that innocent people’s personal information has been divulged and it could get into the hands of the wrong person.”

“(It) got to our office on Tuesday of last week, and we started the investigation at that time,” said Gabriel Sterling with the Secretary of State’s Office.

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Sterling said he and his boss, Raffensperger, find the data breach problematic no matter whose information it is. But if the investigation determines the names belong to election workers, it’s especially troubling.

“When you look at what happened in 2020, we had election workers, Fulton County election workers, have people show up at their door. And this list that’s been put out has home addresses, but even more troubling (than that), it has Social Security numbers,” Raffensperger said.

Fulton County released a statement last week, saying:

“Fulton County election officials have learned of an incident in which personally identifiable information was shared with an individual outside the organization in violation of Fulton County policy.

“Upon learning of the incident, officials immediately launched an investigation. Preliminary results indicate that this was an isolated incident that appears to be the result of human error. The individual responsible for the incident no longer works with Fulton County.

“Fulton County is committed to the safety and security of all citizens and employees. Each individual affected by this incident will be notified and will receive credit monitoring services.”

“Obviously one person got it inadvertently. How many other people got that information? But one is too many,” Raffensperger said.

Stidom indicated that once he got the list of intensely personal data, he immediately contacted the sender and eventually reported the incident to a higher-up.

Stidom says, ironically, it turned out as a Walton County resident. He had made clear during the process that he would not have been legally qualified as a Fulton County poll worker anyway, which he didn’t know going in.

Stidom said a Fulton County official pointed out what the law says about poll workers in response to his concerns he had been retaliated against.

The Fulton County statement said, “Individuals who were affected have already been notified and will receive additional correspondence and credit monitoring.”

A Fulton County spokesperson said the worker who mistakenly sent the confidential data to Stidom, apparently in late August, asked him to delete it.

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