An old ‘IT outage’ alert confuses voters in Ga. county with largest number of Black voters, raises questions about ‘cheating’

Warnings of an “unexpected IT outage” Tuesday on the election website of Georgia’s most populous county prompted alarm on social media about potential problems with the state’s presidential primary, concerns election officials quickly dispelled.

A red banner atop county webpages warning of a “System Outage” was actually related to a January cyberattack that temporarily crippled government services in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta. It did not indicate any problems with Tuesday’s voting, officials said.

“Today has gone relatively uneventful, smooth,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, told reporters during an afternoon media briefing.

Fulton County, Fulton County voting, Atlanta voting,
A voter enters a polling site for the Presidential primary election on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Some users on X, formerly known as Twitter, questioned whether the warning banner was a sign of a “glitch” or primary election “cheating.” Others wondered if it indicated problems at the polls.

The banner had been posted on county web pages since well before the final day of primary voting and warned of an “unexpected IT outage currently affecting multiple systems.” It directed visitors to a March 4 update about the cyberattack and the progress the county has made to restore services.

Fulton County removed the warning banner from its website, including the elections page, after the concerns raised on social media. What remained was a separate one that directed voters to search for their assigned voting location or check wait times.

“Although the alert had been in place since the end of January, we learned today that it was causing possible confusion for voters,” Fulton County spokesperson Jessica Corbitt said in an email. “Fulton County is committed to ensuring that our voters have access to accurate and timely information, and will always try to prevent and address misinformation.”

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Election officials in Georgia, particularly in Fulton County, are especially sensitive to questions about the voting process or fairness of the vote. It was one of the states where former President Donald Trump disputed his narrow loss to Joe Biden in 2020 and where he and others face criminal charges for attempting to overturn the results. Conspiracy theories also have led to death threats against some Fulton County election workers.

The county previously told The Associated Press that there was no indication election systems were targeted in the cyberattack, but that Fulton County and the secretary of state’s technology systems were isolated from one another as a precaution.

Corbitt said Tuesday that the investigation into the cyberattack “is ongoing” and said she could not comment on any data that may have been affected.

Other than the confusion caused by the warning banner, the Georgia Secretary of State’s office said it had seen only minor issues during Tuesday’s voting. Gabriel Sterling, the office’s chief operating officer, said two precincts would remain open past the scheduled closing time because they had opened late.

One was in Cobb County, where the poll workers did not have the code to the key pad, and the other was in Gwinnett County, where a poll manager had been trying to fix a printer.

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Warnings of an unexpected IT outage on the election website of Georgia’s most populous county, Fulton County, caused concern on social media ahead of the state’s presidential primary. However, officials clarified that the banner was related to a cyberattack in January and did not indicate any issues with voting on election day.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger reassured the public that voting had been smooth and uneventful during a media briefing. Despite some social media speculation about potential glitches or cheating, officials stated that the banner was a result of the January cyberattack and not a current issue.

Fulton County removed the warning banner from its website after concerns were raised and left a separate one for voters to find their polling locations. The investigation into the cyberattack is ongoing, and there were only minor issues reported during the primary voting, including two precincts that remained open late due to technical difficulties. Overall, the election process in Georgia appeared to run smoothly aside from the initial confusion caused by the warning banner.

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