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Probe of alleged 2018 attempt to hack Georgia voter-registration system turned over to state AG

The investigation into allegations that someone tried to hack Georgia’s voter-registration system in 2018 has been completed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and sent to the state’s attorney general, a spokesperson for the department said.

The investigation into the Georgia Democratic Party in connection with what then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office characterized as an attempted hack was announced two days before the November 2018 gubernatorial election in which Kemp was the Republican candidate. The Democratic Party said it had only passed along security concerns to a private cybersecurity firm, which in turn shared its concerns with Kemp’s office. The attorney general’s office declined to comment on the investigation.

Kemp did not recuse himself from his election oversight responsibilities during the campaign, a move some Democrats and advocacy groups called a conflict of interest. His office was also accused of voter suppression by the Democratic candidate for governor, Stacey Abrams. Kemp denied those allegations.

Two days before the election, Kemp’s spokesperson in the secretary of state’s office said in a statement, “I can confirm that the Democratic Party of Georgia is under investigation for possible cybercrimes.” The office offered no evidence of the alleged crimes, nor has it done so since. Kemp won the election by nearly 55,000 votes out of the nearly 4 million cast in the race, less than 1.5 percentage points.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation told CNN that its investigation was completed and was forwarded to Republican state Attorney General Christopher Carr’s office in November.

Carr’s office confirmed to CNN that it had received the investigation and declined to comment on the probe.

The Democratic Party of Georgia told CNN on Monday that it has “cooperated fully with the GBI, supplying them with witnesses and documents.”

The statement added that the party had not received any subpoenas as part of the investigation.

“The last time (the state Democratic Party) had contact with the GBI, it assured us that (the party) was not under investigation. Given the absence of any follow-up, we have assumed the investigation was closed,” said Maggie Chambers, a spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party.

Earlier this week, the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Democratic majority staff released a memo that said the state of Georgia had failed to produce any evidence to the committee that backed up Kemp’s assertion of a failed attempt to hack the state voter-registration system. It also said the state had withheld internal emails on the topic.

The committee began its investigation based on reports that voters had “faced unprecedented challenges” and “significant barriers” to participating. The memo said the state was withholding more than 1,400 documents regarding the investigation, an action the committee called “stonewalling.”

CNN has reached out to Kemp’s office for comment.

Georgia’s current secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, said he’s confident in the security of Georgia’s new voting system, featuring a paper backup, which was rolled out after the 2018 election.

“Throughout the process of implementing Georgia’s paper-ballot voting system, we have worked with federal security agencies and the top minds in elections and cyber security to secure the vote in Georgia,” Raffensperger said in a statement provided by his office.

CNN obtained a series of emails back in November that the secretary of state’s office, then run by Kemp, said led it to accuse the Georgia Democratic Party of hacking its voter registration system. The emails refer to findings by a voter who said he had discovered potential vulnerabilities in the state’s voter information page and its online registration system.

The voter took his concerns to the Georgia Democratic Party’s voter protection hotline to alert authorities, according to his lawyer, David Cross. At the time, Cross told CNN that the voter was not affiliated with any political party and did not want to speak to any media. He also said the voter has some software background but is not a hacker.

The voter was looking up his own registration information on the state’s My Voter Page when he discovered he could access other people’s information too, Cross told CNN. The system, the voter found, doesn’t verify who’s making the query and, for that reason, it appeared to him that voters’ private information could be accessed and voter registrations could even be edited by anyone on the site.

The voter went over his concerns with Cross, who has battled with Kemp over similar issues before, including a 2016 lawsuit that alleged cybersecurity vulnerabilities in Georgia’s voting system. Unclear on the implications of what the voter had found, Cross brought in a cybersecurity firm to look at the website. While that firm couldn’t verify the vulnerability either, it too saw a potential for concern, Cross told CNN.

“If (the voter) had never contacted the Democratic Party,” Cross said, “no one would be talking about the Democratic Party. It’s only because (he) alerted them that Kemp draws it back to them.”

The state begins early voting on Monday for its presidential primary election, scheduled for March 24.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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