A cyber breach delays poll worker training in Mississippi’s largest county before the statewide vote


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Election officials in Mississippi’s most populous county had to scramble to complete required poll worker training after an early September breach involving county computers.

In Hinds County, such training is typically completed by early October before a November general election, according to Election Commissioner Shirley Varnado. Instead, office staff members worked right up to Thursday’s deadline to finish the training after Varnado said they were unable to access their computers for about three weeks.

Mississippi has a general election Tuesday with key races such as governor and secretary of state — the state’s top election official.

Hinds County is home to the capital city of Jackson. The county has some 167,000 registered voters and is a key source of Democratic votes. In 2020, Democrat Joe Biden won the county with 73% of the vote, while Republican Donald Trump received 57.5% statewide.

Federal authorities were investigating after county computers were compromised for a period in early September, Hinds County Board Attorney Tony Gaylor said in an email Friday. Gaylor said the county’s computer network was “functioning again” and declined additional comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

Messages seeking information from the county administrator were not returned.

The cyber incident caused a slight delay in the county’s ability to process voter registration forms, according to Circuit Clerk Zach Wallace, whose office handles this election process. Within a few days, staffers were able to use laptops not affected by the breach to connect to the state system for registering voters. Wallace said all applications were processed before the Oct. 10 deadline.

Varnado said the county was “on track” for Tuesday’s election and no other issues were expected.

The county encountered another hiccup on Oct. 26 when the secretary of state’s website was briefly inaccessible. During that time, according to Varnado, election staff were unable to verify voter registration information for poll workers, who are required by law to be registered to vote in the county where they work. Varnado said they have since verified this information.

Issues with the state’s network were resolved and access to the statewide election management system was restored, according to state election officials.

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