Who needs Russian hackers when you have Secretary of State Brian Kemp? Georgia’s election systems were seriously vulnerable before, during and after the 2016 Presidential election and the April, 2018, 6th District Congressional race pitting Karen Handel, former Secretary of State, and Jon Ossoff. That is not news since it has been confirmed that 39 states’ election systems were penetrated in 2016, and Georgia’s system is 15 years old. It should be noted that in 2016, Georgia was one of only two states that refused help offered from Homeland Security to check the security of voting systems. However, it is now being revealed that what happened in Georgia is scandalous!
I SUPPOSE you imagined like me, that our electronic voting systems were located somewhere in the bowels of a State building under heavy security. I’m not talking about voting machines, I’m talking about the brain of the system. Turns out, the server with two back-up servers, was located at Kennesaw State University whose employees (and perhaps even students) were operating this equipment.
IN AUGUST, 2016 a computer security expert, Logan Lamb, having heard about the Russian hacking, decided he would check into Georgia’s system. He did a “Google” search which led him to the KSU Election Center. I can only imagine his shock when there, in plain sight, was personal data for 6.7 million voters—our names, addresses Social Security numbers, and birth dates. Gets worse! There was a PDF file with instructions and passwords for election officials to sign in to the system server, software files used to identify voters. Any fifth grader could have found those files. Logan Lamb immediately contacted the election officials of the SOS office. He told them, “There is a strong possibility your site is already compromised.” Ignoring Lamb’s and other’s warning, the “patch” was not made until March 1, 2017, eight months after it was reported.
BUT IT GETS even worse. You know what they say, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” Following dismissal of a lawsuit (on technical grounds) asking for the election to be overturned due to vulnerabilities, another lawsuit was filed by a watchdog group, Coalition of Good Governance, on July 3rd. On July 10th, the server and it’s two back-ups were wiped clean as a whistle. These machines do not produce a paper back-up so the only evidence of possible intrusion and tampering was destroyed. In an email written by a KSU IT security professional to the VP of Educational Technology, he said, “Per your instructions, we have degaussed the hard drives.” “Per your instructions” sounds like a CYA if I ever heard one.
THE LAWSUIT continues. In a surprise development last week, the Attorney General’s office, who represents the Secretary of State and election officials in this suit, announced they would no longer defend the State officials. The case was assigned to the private law firm of former Governor Roy Barnes. Time will tell the strategy of this move. Oh, did I mention Republican Sam Olens resigned as Attorney General to be President of KSU in October, 2016?
THE SECRETARY of State is the elected official tasked with protecting the integrity of our voting system. As expected, SOS Brian Kemp denies any involvement with the security of the system. He is playing the blame game saying that it was KSU’s ineptitude. Kemp was repeatedly warned about the vulnerability in the elections system. He had it in his power to use back-up paper ballots, but declined. Instead, he was consistently dismissive. What was his over-sight at KSU? Brian Kemp is ultimately the one who should be held accountable for allowing our voter system to even be doubted. We may never know if our system was manipulated and votes altered by the Russians, by a 400 lb. man on a bed like Trump said, or a Republican who just wanted to win. Or, not. But since the evidence was destroyed, we only have his past actions on which to base our opinion.
SOS KEMP has spent his ten years in office suppressing the vote of Democrats and minorities. He fought for very oppressive voter laws. He purged 160,000 voters from active voter rolls simply because they moved to another location in the same county. In 2015 Kemp’s office sent out personal data on 6 million voters to 12 organizations on discs. He blamed it on a clerical error. He performed investigations into voter registration and turn-out efforts focused on minority voters, despite no evidence to do so. Kemp conducted a criminal investigation against the new Georgia Project aimed at registering minorities. Of the 87,000 registration forms, only 53 were found to have irregularities. He could have bought new voter systems with the money he has squandered on defending lawsuits. He actually made this statement, “Voter registration efforts were threatening Republican control in Georgia.” Preserving our right to vote is not a partisan issue, Mr. Kemp.
HISTORICALLY, in Georgia, we have had honorable Secretaries of State who did not wear a party hat, like the late Ben Fortson, David Poythress, and Max Cleland. And, I recall the very long serving, above partisanship Director of Elections, Francis Duncan. Brian Kemp is not worthy to be their coffee boy. Now he wants to be YOUR Governor.
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