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Ransomware attack has slowed absentee ballot processing but not speed or ability to vote, officials say
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Hall County's elections board and staff process absentee ballots Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. The process involves verifying signatures and placing ballots in batches for counting. Votes won't actually be tabulated until Election Day. - photo by Scott Rogers

The ransomware attack on Hall County government’s networks has slowed down signature verification for absentee ballots but has not affected residents’ ability to vote, according to county officials. 

One of the databases elections staff can use to verify a voter’s signature has been down since Oct. 7, when the county discovered a ransomware attack that caused an outage of county phone and email services, in addition to other county software such as the programs used to process business licenses and building permits. Phone and email access, along with most other services, have been restored. 

Kay Wimpye, registration coordinator with the county elections office, told The Times Wednesday, Oct. 21, that employees can still verify voter signatures by manually pulling hard copies of voter registration cards. 

“As long as the ballot is here, it’s time-stamped, it’s secured in the office, the ballot will be accepted. It’s just taking us a little longer to verify those signatures,” Wimpye said.   

Most voter signatures can be verified using a state database that has been unaffected by the ransomware, Wimpye said. Many of the signatures that must be checked using a registration card are from older registrations or registrations that were done manually rather than online, which is more time consuming, she said. 

County spokeswoman Katie Crumley declined to comment further Friday, Oct. 23, on the county’s investigation of the ransomware attack but said there were no reported delays at polling places because of the network outage. 

The county’s online precinct map has also been unavailable due to the ransomware attack, as the county’s Geographic Information Systems network is down. Voters can find their polling place for Election Day by visiting the My Voter Page section of the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office website or calling Hall’s elections office at 770-531-6945.