Days before elections, Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is running a close-fought campaign for governor, says Democrats are under investigation for hacking the state’s election system.
A spokesman for Kemp — who is in a neck-and-neck race with Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams — provided no evidence for the accusation made on Sunday, that also came just as reports that the state election system, which as secretary of state Kemp oversees, is open to glaring vulnerabilities.
“While we cannot comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation, I can confirm that the Democratic Party of Georgia is under investigation for possible cybercrimes,” Candice Broce, who works for Kemp, said, according to The Associated Press.
Democrats responded to the announcement, calling it “a reckless and unethical ploy.”
“He is trying to rile up his base by misleading voters yet again,” Abrams told The Atlanta Journal Constitution. “The Democrats did nothing wrong.”
Citing a potential conflict of interest, Democrats, including former President Jimmy Carter, have unsuccessfully appealed for Kemp to step aside as secretary of state until after the election.
Edgardo Cortés, Virginia’s former elections commissioner who is now an election security adviser for the Brennan Center for Justice, told the AJC that Sunday’s announcement was “bizarre” and said the timing of it is “problematic.”
“It all just sounds very strange,” Cortés said. “You suddenly open an investigation without giving any sort of details about what happened? In Virginia, we would never have done something like that because I think it would have created a lot of concern among voters.”
On Saturday, a federal judge ruled that the state must relax voting restrictions that could prevent more than 3,000 people from casting ballots in Tuesday’s poll.
As NPR’s Shannon Van Sant reported over the weekend, U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross side with civil rights groups who charge that the state’s “exact match” law, which can be used to disallow voting for such things as missing hyphens, accent marks and middle initials, was overly restrictive.
In her ruling, Ross noted that such restrictions were likely to fall most heavily on minorities.
A report by The Associated Press said that under the “exact match” law, Kemp had stalled more than 50,000 voter registrations by mostly black voters. The AP also reported that through a process Kemp calls “voter roll maintenance,” his office has “cancelled over 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012” and that “nearly 670,000 registrations were cancelled in 2017 alone.”