Server image mystery in Georgia election security case

July 3, 2019

By FRANK BAJAK

The case of whether hackers may have tampered with elections in Georgia has taken another strange turn.

Nearly two years ago, state lawyers in a closely watched election integrity lawsuit told the judge they intended to subpoena the FBI for the forensic image, or digital snapshot, the agency made of a crucial server before state election officials quietly wiped it clean. Election watchdogs want to examine the data to see if there might have been tampering, given that the server was left exposed by a gaping security hole for more than half a year.

A new email obtained by The Associated Press says state officials never did issue the subpoena, even though the judge had ordered that evidence be preserved, including from the FBI.

The FBI data is central to activists’ challenge to Georgia’s highly questioned, centrally administered elections system, which lacks an auditable paper trail and was run at the time by Gov. Brian Kemp, then Georgia’s secretary of state.

The plaintiffs contend Kemp’s handling of the wiped server is the most glaring example of mismanagement that could be hiding evidence of vote tampering. They have been fighting for access to the state’s black-box voting systems and to individual voting machines, many of which they say have also been altered in violation of court order.

Marilyn Marks of the Coalition for Good Governance, a plaintiff in the case, said that if the state failed to secure the data from the FBI — despite informing U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg in October 2017 of its intent to do so with the subpoena — it clearly has something to hide.

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Georgia governor’s race roiled by election security charges

November 5, 2018

By BILL BARROW and FRANK BAJAK

ATLANTA (AP) — The bruising race for governor of Georgia has been roiled by unsupported, eleventh-hour allegations from Republican candidate Brian Kemp, who is also the state’s chief election official, that Democrats sought to hack the voter registration system.

His Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, said he is making a baseless accusation to deflect attention from an apparently severe security flaw in the system Kemp is responsible for overseeing.

Here’s a look at the dispute, how it unfolded and what’s at stake.

THE ALLEGATION

Kemp asked the FBI on Sunday to investigate the Democratic Party, accusing it of trying to hack the system he controls as secretary of state. He offered no evidence in support of his request for a probe of the opposition.

The FBI declined to comment.

Kemp leveled the allegation after an attorney for election-security advocates notified the FBI and Kemp’s office on Saturday that a private citizen alerted him to what appeared to be a major flaw in the database used to check in voters at the polls.

Independent computer scientists told The Associated Press that the flaw would enable anyone with access to an individual voter’s personal information to log on to Georgia’s MyVoter registration portal and alter or delete any voter’s record, potentially causing havoc.

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APNewsBreak: Georgia election server wiped after suit filed

A computer server crucial to a lawsuit against Georgia election officials was quietly wiped clean by its custodians just after the suit was filed, The Associated Press has learned.

The server’s data was destroyed July 7 by technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state’s election system. The data wipe was revealed in an email sent last week from an assistant state attorney general to plaintiffs in the case that was later obtained by the AP. More emails obtained in a public records request confirmed the wipe.

The lawsuit, filed July 3 by a diverse group of election reform advocates, aims to force Georgia to retire its antiquated and heavily criticized election technology. The server in question, which served as a statewide staging location for key election-related data, made national headlines in June after a security expert disclosed a gaping security hole that wasn’t fixed six months after he reported it to election authorities.

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