Republican Candidate for Georgia Governor Accuses Democrats of Hacking, Without Disclosing Evidence

Secretary of State Brian Kemp gives a thumbs up after casting his ballot while voting with his wife Marty at the Winterville Train Depot in the runoff election on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, in Winterville, Ga. Voting advocates and civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta against Kemp, the state elections board and the Gwinnett County elections board over what they deem to be its "excessive rejection of mail ballots because of voters' innocent errors and discrepancies." (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

November 5, 2018

By Mark Niesse

ATLANTA — Just two days before the election, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office began an investigation Sunday into the Democratic Party after an alleged attempt to hack the state’s voter registration system.

Kemp, who is the Republican candidate for governor on Tuesday’s ballot, didn’t provide evidence linking the Democratic Party to the hacking attempt. He is opposed Democrat Stacey Abrams in the election.

The Democratic Party of Georgia called the allegation “100 percent false” and “an abuse of power” by Kemp’s office.

After election officials received a report Saturday that the state’s voter registration website was vulnerable, they blamed the Democrats instead of correcting the issue, said Democratic Party of Georgia Executive Director Rebecca DeHart.

The development Sunday intensified calls for Kemp to resign as the state’s top election official while he’s running for governor. Throughout the campaign he has refused to do so.

The hacking allegation arose from concerns raised by a computing expert that anyone’s voter registration information could be obtained from the state’s My Voter Page and voter registration site.

The Secretary of State’s Office said the system remains secure and voter information wasn’t breached, but there was an attempt to penetrate the system.

The website’s vulnerability could allow someone to access personal information, such as driver’s license numbers and addresses, and potentially change voter registration information without permission, said Richard DeMillo, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech.

“The way the website is set up, once you get access to your own voter record, you can go in and change permissions and get access to anyone’s voting records,” DeMillo said. “You can change voter registration. You can download personally identifiable information.”

Abrams called Kemp’s investigation “a desperate ploy.”

“He twice this week was told by federal judges that he was wrong when it comes to voter suppression,” Abrams told WSB-TV. “He is trying to rile up his base by misleading voters yet again.”

Kemp’s office said it opened the investigation after receiving information from its lawyers about failed efforts to breach voter registration websites.

“We are working with our private sector vendors and investigators to review data logs,” said Candice Broce, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office. “We have contacted our federal partners and formally requested the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate these possible cyber crimes.”

But an attorney for a group suing over the security of Georgia’s electronic voting machines said he provided the information about the vulnerability to the state’s attorneys.

“Someone was making a good-faith effort to determine if there’s a vulnerability, and he’s coming after them and saying it’s hacking,” said the attorney, David Cross. “It’s another failure of Kemp’s office to actually have a secure election system in the state.”

Democrats said Kemp’s investigation is a “political stunt” just before Election Day.

“Brian Kemp is desperate to save his failing campaign, and it’s likely we’ll see even more of his abuses of power as the election nears,” DeHart said.

Kemp’s campaign said the Democrats tried unsuccessfully to expose vulnerabilities in Georgia’s voter registration system.

“This was a fourth-quarter Hail Mary pass that was intercepted in the end zone,” said campaign spokesman Ryan Mahoney. “Thanks to the systems and protocols established by Secretary of State Brian Kemp, no personal information was breached. These power-hungry radicals should be held accountable for their criminal behavior.”

The alleged hacking attempt occurred Saturday evening, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

The accusation from Kemp’s office came as President Donald Trump was visiting Georgia to campaign for Kemp.

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©2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)

Visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.) at www.ajc.com

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