Milwaukee Contracting with Election Firm Implicated in Data Theft Scandal

By Dan O'Donnell

October 13, 2022

The City of Milwaukee has a contract with the Konnech Corporation, an election management company whose CEO was charged last week with stealing personal information from poll workers and storing data on Chinese servers, "The Dan O'Donnell Show" has learned.

In August, the Milwaukee Election Commission entered into a contract with Konnech in which it agreed to pay $111,500 to provide its PollChief election management software to the City. The contract runs from January 1st through January 31st "with annual options to renew." According to Konnech's website, PollChief software "manages election logistics, [and] track[s] election services such as poll worker training," scheduling, communication, and payment.

According to a bid request form from the Milwaukee's Department of Administration, the City sought "proposals from qualified parties for a comprehensive election worker scheduling, training, payment and inventory management software with the intent to award a Vendor Service Contract for Election Management Software for one year with optional yearly renewals." Konnech, a Michigan-based company, submitted a bid and was informed over the summer that it had won the contract.

Last week, Konnech's founder and CEO, Eugene Yu, was arrested on suspicion of stealing personal data from hundreds of poll workers in Los Angeles County. Two years ago, the company won a $2.9 million contract to provide its software to the County.

"Data breaches are an ongoing threat to our digital way of life," said Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon in a statement announcing Yu's arrest. "When we entrust a company to hold our confidential data, they must be willing and able to protect our personal identifying information from theft. Otherwise, we are all victims."

Gascon noted that "the alleged conduct had no impact on the tabulation of votes and did not alter election results. But security in all aspects of any election is essential so that we all have full faith in the integrity of the election process." His office did not specify what sort of data was stolen.

In response to the arrest, Milwaukee Election Commission Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg says the City has placed the implementation of PollChief software on hold, but did not say whether the City has any plans to cancel its contract with Konnech.

"The City of Milwaukee executed a contract with Konnech in August, but has not yet begun any work or migration of data to the Konnech software," she said in an email. "Our original timeline for implementation of mid-2023 has been placed on hold as we monitor the legal proceedings with the company."

Under the terms of its contract with Los Angeles County, Konnech was required to store data in the United States. However, Konnech instead used servers in China. Yu, who was born in China, has for months faced allegations that he was secretly supplying poll worker information to the Chinese Government and Chinese Communist Party.

The New York Times dismissed this as a conspiracy theory in an article published just a day before Yu's arrest. An editor's note affixed to the online article now reads: "After this article was published, the chief executive of Konnech, Eugene Yu, was arrested in connection with an investigation into the possible theft of personal information about poll workers....[P]rosecutors in Los Angeles, who brought the charges against Mr. Yu, said that they had found some company data stored on servers in China."

After Yu's arrest, the City of Detroit terminated its contract with Konnech, which had provided the city with poll worker software since 2008.

"Out of an abundance of caution, all proper steps are being taken — including the termination of Konnech’s contract," Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said in a statement.

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