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Some voters remain concerned about the 2020 election scandal in Coffee County, Ga.


Donald Trump and his allies tried in many ways to overturn Trump's 2020 defeat in Georgia. They failed. Now two of those allies have pled guilty, including Sidney Powell. She's the attorney who coordinated a plan to unlawfully copy data from voting equipment in a rural Georgia county. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler paid a visit to learn what officials and voters there now think.

STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: It's the middle of the afternoon on a Wednesday, and Coffee County Election Supervisor Christy Nipper is calm and relaxed. Voters occasionally call with questions about upcoming local elections. Everything else is...

CHRISTY NIPPER: Business as usual.

FOWLER: That might not seem remarkable now, but it's a big deal to a county that was thrust into the limelight after the 2020 election - and not for a good reason.


SCOTT HALL: We scanned every freaking ballot, and the elections director and her assistant lost their job.

FOWLER: That's Scott Hall, an Atlanta area bail bondsman. On January 7, 2021, Hall and several others just walked into the Coffee County Elections office and got to work illegally copying everything they could. They hoped to find proof that irregularities tainted the election outcome. They were helped by the election supervisor at the time, Misty Hampton. She later resigned.

It's been 2 1/2 years. There was no fraud. And much like the trains that run frequently outside the elections office...


FOWLER: ...Everyone in Coffee County seems eager to move on. Full steam ahead, says Nipper.

NIPPER: There's really nothing to be concerned about any longer. No one that was involved in that is currently here anymore. We have made changes. We have all-new people, all-new equipment.

FOWLER: Beyond new equipment, there's also a new office space with a bigger window for people to legally watch the election processes unfold. Even so, there's little public attention paid to the breach, the criminal charges, or the guilty pleas that are trickling in.

JUDI WORRELL: No one around here would have ever thought this - you know, this would happen in Coffee County.

FOWLER: Sitting in a coffee shop, retired teacher Judi Worrell is one of just a handful of residents who have shared lingering concerns about the breach at public meetings.

WORRELL: These kind of things happen in the big cities. You read about this in the newspaper, and then when you read that it's happening outside your front door, it brings it home very quickly, and it's very disturbing.

FOWLER: Coffee County has about 44,000 people - most of them Republicans. And with a small-town atmosphere, Worrell says some people don't want to talk about bad things that involve friends, family or neighbors. But also...

WORRELL: I don't think there's very many that are really, truly interested in it or are aware of the depth of it, really. And I think some people just don't want to know for whatever reason.

FOWLER: Even with new machines and new staff, Worrell worries that there won't be enough accountability ahead of the next presidential election in 2024. Meanwhile, Hall and Powell have taken plea deals, admitting they interfered with Coffee County's 2020 election. The former supervisor, Misty Hampton, is still among 16 others awaiting trial.

For NPR News, I'm Stephen Fowler in Coffee County, Ga.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Stephen Fowler
Stephen Fowler is a political reporter with NPR's Washington Desk and will be covering the 2024 election based in the South. Before joining NPR, he spent more than seven years at Georgia Public Broadcasting as its political reporter and host of the Battleground: Ballot Box podcast, which covered voting rights and legal fallout from the 2020 presidential election, the evolution of the Republican Party and other changes driving Georgia's growing prominence in American politics. His reporting has appeared everywhere from the Center for Public Integrity and the Columbia Journalism Review to the PBS NewsHour and ProPublica.

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