As the governor’s race in Georgia continues to attract national attention — with Hollywood luminaries campaigning for Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp mandating an overhaul of voter rolls — a new wrinkle has emerged in an already contentious race: Kemp, who also currently serves as Georgia’s Secretary of State and is therefore in charge of overseeing election matters, says the Georgia Democrat party may be trying to hack the state’s election system.
This allegation, coming as it does two days prior to the election and with Kemp thus far not offering up evidence to support his claim, has Democrats in the state — and indeed, the country — screaming conflict of interest (is Kemp abusing his role overseeing elections as Sec. of State to play politics?) and voter suppression (is mandating accurate information tantamount to disenfranchisement?).
What’s being overlooked, however, is this is not the first time Kemp has alleged hacking of the state’s election system, nor are his claims that vote fraud might be occurring in Georgia totally without support.
Back in December of 2016, just after President Donald Trump was elected, Kemp wrote a letter to the incoming administration and requested they investigate an attempt to breach the firewall of the state’s election system. Most shocking was who he fingered as the hacker: The Obama Department of Homeland Security. Kemp contacted DHS with his concerns before writing the letter to the White House but was less than impressed with their response.
Kemp said he is not satisfied with the response from current DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.
“Since contacting DHS with these concerns, we have collaborated with the agency and provided extensive, additional information,” Kemp wrote. “Last night I received a letter from Secretary Johnson which lacked any specific information as to the attacks’ intent or origin despite the fact that many questions remain unanswered.”
Kemp’s office detected what he called a “large attack on our system” in November. His staff was able to trace the alleged attacker back to the Department of Homeland Security.
DHS blamed a Microsoft product and a misconfigured computer for what they said looked like an attack. Sometime later, reports began to surface that the Georgia elections systems may have been targeted by Russian hackers.
Then there’s the matter of the 50,000+ voter registrations put on hold because they violate the state’s “exact match” protocol where if social security information is incorrect the registration is invalid until the individual provides the correct information (and is able to vote at that time).
Democrat Abrams has sued Kemp in his role as Secretary of State over the exact match protocol alleging voter suppression. But there’s some independent reporting in the state citing anonymous sources that some of those registrations may never have actually existed at all.
The importance of voter registration initiatives like NGP can't be overstated, especially in Southern states, where disenfranchisement has lingered nearly a half century after the passage of 1965's Voting Rights Act. But numerous sources, some requesting anonymity due to employment concerns, question how many of NGP's allegedly missing voter registration applications actually existed. If the applications existed, Abrams raised millions from donors but failed to register 120,000 minority residents as she had pledged. If the unprocessed applications never existed, then Abrams, perhaps in an attempt to distract from her group's failures, sued an official with a reputation for voter suppression, potentially knowing the case was unlikely to be won. Though not illegal, such a chain of events would have major political ramifications.
The secretary of state continues to investigate potential voter fraud by NGP staffers and canvassers. Its findings could result in felony charges, or it may turn up nothing. No one, including the secretary of state's office, has accused Abrams of malfeasance.
The Georgia governor’s race is shaping up to be a testing ground for some age-old electoral issues: how much popularity, money, and influence can distract voters from a very serious concern over the integrity of the ballot box.