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Indiana County Mulls Poll Worker Management Software

The Lake County Board of Elections is considering whether to implement poll worker management software they purchased or break the contract with the software provider amid security concerns.

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(TNS) — Lake County Board of Elections officials say they need to decide whether to implement poll worker management software they purchased or break the contract with the Michigan-based software provider amid security concerns.

Questions linger about how secure the Konnech PollChief software is after allegations that poll worker information from Los Angeles County was found stored on a Chinese server. That case prompted the board to suspend full implementation of the software in 2022 while the claims were investigated.

According to a press release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, Konnech Corp., CEO Eugene Yu was taken into custody on Oct. 4, 2022, after it was alleged that — contrary its contract with the vendor — the information was stored on servers based in the People's Republic of China when only U.S. citizens and permanent residents were supposed to have access to it.

Michelle Fajman, director of the Board of Elections, said Konnech addressed the allegations in a letter indicating Yu was wrongfully arrested and the substance of the charges against him remain unclear. The letter reaffirms any information provided by the Lake County Board of Elections has been stored only on its servers in Lansing, Michigan.

It is unclear if Yu has been charged. No further information was available from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. A spokesperson for the office did not respond to a request about the status of the investigation by press time.

Fajman said the deadline for the $15,000 maintenance contract payment to the company is approaching.

A handful of residents came out to complain about the contract with Konnech, calling for the board to end its affiliation. They have expressed their concerns while attending election board meetings off and on since October.

Tiffany Crate of Cedar Lake accused the board of either knowingly or unknowingly entering into a contract that would compromise the information of the county's poll workers.

"It appears by all reports the Board of Elections unknowingly has taken steps to bond our election system to outside influencers and usurpers," Crate said. She likened the board to a "valiant head of the family" that should protect the family and said usage of PollChief was "akin to parents giving over their own children to traffickers."

Crate called on the board to explore safer options including paper ballots.

Rob Segert of Crown Point echoed Crate's call for paper ballots. He said the board "neglected to act appropriately in the interest of the sovereign men and women of Lake County."

He asked what safeguards have been put in place to guarantee election security and called a USB drive, which he held in his hand, the "surest tool of election corruption."

"You have been warned," Segert said.

Board Member Michael Mellon, a Republican, said paper ballots and use of the PollChief software are two different issues and should not be conflated. Mellon pushed back against the call for paper ballots, saying paper balloting opened the door for corruption.

Mellon asked the board to address the concerns routinely raised and take a position on where it stands regarding implementation of the software. He said he would like to see a check list of the questions with answers that can be handed out when people raise the issue.

Fajman said the department provided some data to the Konnech, including the names and addresses of individuals who have served as poll workers in the past to set up the template. All information provided would be publicly available, she said, so no Social Security or drivers' license numbers would be affected. Since the board stopped the implementation, nothing further has happened, Fajman said.

©2023 the Post-Tribune, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.