Opinion

Will the Georgia Runoffs Be America’s Last Unsecure Election?

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Posted: Dec 20, 2020 12:01 AM
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Will the Georgia Runoffs Be America’s Last Unsecure Election?

Source: AP Photo/Ben Gray, Pool

It really does seem off in the distant past, that in the literal 11th hour, post meridiem eastern that is, President Donald Trump looked to be cruising towards reelection. The truth is, it was only about seven weeks ago that America seemingly changed forever. Since then, we have had no shortage of news related to legal challenges and shocking accusations, while we have simultaneously seen “release the kraken” replace “flatten the curve” as the most overused and annoying phrase of 2020. 

The basis for this contention is the integrity, or lack thereof, of the American election system. After the countless lawsuits, affidavits, accusations, and having to go through the painfully mind-numbing exercise of observing “Twitter lawyers” making their online cases, we still cannot say with certainty that our elections, beginning with the all-important January Senate runoff elections in Georgia, will be fair and secure. 

In fact, GOP leaders in the Peach State have already filed two federal and one state-level suit related to the January 5th elections, that have already had thousands of Georgians vote either by mail or in-person. The arguments presented in those suits centered primarily around the use of drop-boxes to return absentee ballots as well as to attempt to increase the scrutiny applied in the signature verification process for those same ballots.

The two federal versions of the suits were dismissed by District Court Judges last week, as they opined that the GOP plaintiffs, who represented local, state, and national level Republican groups, lacked the legal standing necessary to prove their arguments. 

It is actually somewhat ironic that as the question of election integrity comes to the forefront, Georgia, a state with a recent history in securing elections that has failed to inspire confidence, becomes functionally the center of the American political landscape, as all eyes turn to January 5th. 

If you weren’t aware, a so-called “white hat” hack in 2016, that was executed by cybersecurity researcher Logan Lamb, exposed vulnerabilities in the Georgia election apparatus. Lamb, who says he was moved by all the news reports regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election, started to research Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems, which was actually responsible for programming voting machines in the state of Georgia.

Lamb was able to easily access and download almost 15 GB of Georgia voter data. The “stolen” information included registration records for 6.7 million voters as well as login credentials that were created for poll workers for use in the 2016 Election.

The aftermath of the Lamb hack saw Georgia almost enact an ill-conceived bill that would have complicated the research needed for both the public and private sectors to improve general cybersecurity. SB 315 looked to establish “white hat hacking” as a misdemeanor crime of a “high and aggravated nature.” It also would have held individuals who were able to gain “unauthorized” access to a computers or computer networks liable for a maximum $5,000 fine and a year in jail. This would have essentially prevented some critically important functions of professional security researchers and IT personnel, who, through attempting to breach networks from the outside, are able to uncover system vulnerabilities.

Four years after the Lamb hack, Georgia’s election systems were again compromised by hackers, when on October 7th an attack targeted Hall County, GA, and managed to disable the county’s voter signature database. The DoppelPaymer ransomware gang was credited for the cyber intrusion that affected a county that is home to roughly 180,000 residents. 

Despite an announcement from Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, whose name has been mentioned often during the recent recount efforts, that a new signature matching effort for absentee ballots associated with the 2020 presidential election will be conducted, establishing the legitimacy of past election results will do little to reassure GOP voters going forward.

Incumbent Senators David Purdue and Kelly Loeffler face a difficult task this January. They have to carry their respective senate elections in a state that just weeks ago voted against a successful Republican President, while needing votes from a largely disillusioned base. Under normal circumstances, the peripheral tasks associated with running and winning a senate race would be more cut and dry, but as the legal challenges associated with the 2020 presidential election continue, the expected war chest for the senate race is unwisely being split between both efforts.    

Julio Rivera is a business and political strategist, the Editorial Director for Reactionary Times, and a political commentator and columnist. His writing, which is focused on cybersecurity and politics, has been published by websites including The Hill, Newsmax, The Washington Times, Real Clear Politics, Townhall, American Thinker and many others.