Voting machines for Georgia's 6th Congressional District went missing from an election precinct manager's vehicle just days before a special election — but Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office didn't hear out about the incident until days after it occurred, WSB-TV in Atlanta reported Tuesday.
The purpose of Tuesday's special election is to fill what was former GOP Rep. Tom Price's seat in Congress. President Donald Trump tapped Price to become health and human services secretary. Democrats nationwide and their celebrity supporters have targeted this race to send a message to the Trump administration.
Cobb County precinct manager Craig Joe Rogers of Marietta, an Atlanta suburb, told police he left four ExpressPoll machines, which were worth $2,000 each, in his parked F-250 Super Duty truck at a Kroger grocery store in Marietta Saturday night. All of the machines were later stolen, Fox News reported. The vehicle was not damaged in the theft. Rogers said it's possible he left the doors unlocked.
Surveillance video reportedly showed a "dark gray colored Dodge Charger or Chrysler 300" pulling into the parking lot. An individual then got out the vehicle, accessed the inside of Rogers' truck, and left the scene in his car. Fox News, which obtained the video, did not specify whether this person was also seen taking the equipment.
Police said another vehicle was broken into around the same time at a fish market just down the street.
Cobb County Elections Director Janine Eveler said that, while voters' personal information was on the machines, the data would be "hard to access."
But Lawrence Norden of New York University's Brennan Center Democracy Program isn't convinced.
“If you wanted to target people based on their party affiliation, there’s potential that it could be used for getting out the vote. It is very dangerous, where these machines don’t have the right security," Norden told Fox News.
"They could be tampered with and manipulated so that if people show up on Election Day, you can make it seem like somebody already voted, or you could create something where the E Poll book can’t communicate with the central database creating long lines," Norden said.
However, Eveler said the machines that were to be used at the precinct location were replaced for Tuesday's special election.
Four of Cobb County's five commissioners are Republican and Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren is also a Republican. Given the overwhelming majority of Republicans leading the county and the fact that Democrats heavily targeted the race with millions of dollars, voters can expect that, no matter the results of Tuesday's vote, the losing party will almost certainly point to this incident as possible evidence of foul play.
It was not immediately clear why the secretary of state's office was not notified until two days after the theft — just one day before the election. It was also not clear when exactly police were notified of the crime.
Georgia state officials are investigating the incident. Kemp's office issued a statement, condemning what happened.
“It is unacceptable that the Cobb County elections office waited two days to notify my office of this theft," Kemp said. "We have opened an investigation, and we are taking steps to ensure that it has no effect on the election tomorrow."
"I am confident that the results will not be compromised," Kemp added.
Nevertheless, the incident reminded one Georgia voter of recent voter fraud instances reported in states across the country.
"It’s very shocking, especially with the climate we have of voter fraud out there,” the voter told WSB.