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Personal data of at least 2 Beaufort Co. poll workers posted online. FBI, SLED investigating

The Charlotte Observer logo The Charlotte Observer 2/9/2022 Kacen Bayless, The Charlotte Observer
Poll workers help voters in the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 at Shanklin Elementary School in Seabrook. © Drew Martin/The Island Packet/TNS Poll workers help voters in the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 at Shanklin Elementary School in Seabrook.

Federal and state law enforcement agencies are investigating a breach in a voting software company that exposed the personal information of at least two Beaufort County poll workers, a spokesperson for the state elections commission confirmed Wednesday.

The personal information, which included copies of Social Security cards and driver’s licenses, was posted online.

Beaufort County, along with five other South Carolina counties, contracted with Georgia-based EasyVote Solutions to track and manage its poll workers, spokesperson Chris Whitmire said.

EasyVote learned Jan. 31 that files from its online storage location were available on the internet, CFO Charles Davis said. The company disabled access to that storage location and transferred the data to more secure spot, he said.

The company is working with law enforcement and a cybersecurity firm and has notified customers whose data may have been breached, he said.

“We take seriously our responsibility to safeguard the information in our care and, as we work to complete the investigation, we will look for opportunities to enhance our existing security measures,” he said.

Beaufort County used the company’s system to upload hiring documents, which included poll workers’ personally identifiable information (PII), Whitmire said.

“We’re not aware of any other county that used the system in that way,” he said. “Any time any individual’s PII is compromised, it’s a big deal. It’s not acceptable. We, as government administrators who are charged with protecting information, we have to follow through with that. We see that as an important part of what we do.”

EasyVote’s software is not connected to the state’s voter registration system, its voting system or its electronic pollbook system, he said. The company does not generate or record ballots and is not used to determine election results.

Anderson, Charleston, Greenville, Jasper and Orangeburg counties also use EasyVote, Whitmire said.

The S.C. Law Enforcement Division notified Beaufort County’s voter registration office about the data breach last Wednesday, said Chris Ophardt, Beaufort County spokesperson.

Because the breach involved data in at least Georgia and South Carolina, the Federal Bureau of Investigation also is involved in the investigation, he said.

Jean Felix, chair of the Board of Voter Registration and Elections of Beaufort County, told a reporter Tuesday she did not have any information about the breach.

“The only thing we know right now is there was a security compromise of some kind,” Felix said. “When we know something, we will release that information.”

Ophardt told a reporter Wednesday that the unresponsiveness of Felix and other board members is because they signed non-disclosure agreements with the state.

The elections board on Tuesday held an emergency executive session to discuss a “personnel matter,” but failed to notify the general public of the meeting, a requirement under South Carolina law.

Felix said the board sent notice of the meeting to Beaufort County. Reporters at The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette were not notified.

Multiple elected officials, including two council members and Beaufort Mayor Stephen Murray, learned of the data breach from a reporter Tuesday.

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