GA Officials Scramble to Explain Destruction of Voting Records

GA Officials Scramble to Explain Destruction of Voting Records

A critical piece of evidence in a suit challenging the integrity of Georgia's voting systems was lost.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has charged the state agency that programs and runs the state’s voting systems with “inexcusable conduct or gross incompetence.”

But despite the “undeniable ineptitude” of voting system administrators at Kennesaw State University’s Center for Elections Systems – who answer to Kemp – “Georgia’s elections are safe and our systems remain secure,” Kemp insisted Thursday.

Good luck trying to reconcile those statements.

Kemp’s verbal gymnastics were triggered by reports this week that voting data stored on a computer server at KSU was destroyed in early July. The server is a critical piece of evidence in a lawsuit questioning the security and accuracy of Georgia’s voting machinery.

Kemp is a defendant in the suit. Though Georgia law gives his office responsibility for overseeing state election systems, Sara Henderson, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, notes that Kemp has repeatedly denied involvement in the university’s decisions on voting machine security.

“Georgia is not creating a climate of voting integrity for our citizens by continuing to blame shift,” Henderson told the Associated Press.

The lawsuit challenges the reported results of a special election in June in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. The hotly-contested race to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom Price was won by Republican nominee Karen Handel, who took office shortly after Kemp’s office certified the results.

Before the voting, Common Cause called on Kemp and other Georgia officials to conduct the special election using paper ballots, which can be audited after Election Day to ensure that the winner of the initial vote count actually received the most votes. The state declined the request and used electronic voting machines that produce no paper record and have been shown to be vulnerable to computer hacker attacks.

The plaintiffs in the case contend that a misconfigured server at the KSU center exposed more than 6.5 million voter records and other information that could be used to alter the returns.

KSU officials insisted this week that data on the server was copied by the FBI shortly after the June 20 election and that the server was then returned to the Center for Elections Systems. Because the FBI concluded that the server had not been compromised, KSU officials then erased the data and prepared to use the server for other purposes, the university added. Contacted by the Associated Press, FBI officials in Atlanta declined comment on whether they still have the data.