Georgia Officials Seem To Be Sabotaging Investigations Into Potential Voting Irregularities
As those of you who read me regularly would know, I have been raging against the quickening erosion of our democracy for quite a while. The anachronistic voting procedures that give lie to principle of “one man, one vote”, the extreme gerrymandering, voter suppression and the attack on voting rights, and more all erode faith in our democratic processes and our democracy itself.
If those concerns weren’t enough, we now have to also worry about the safety, security, and accuracy of our actual voting systems. It does not help when states refuse to take action to defend their systems from being hacked. That is the situation that has existed in the state of Georgia, where the state relies on purely electronic voting without a paper trail, for at least the last decade.
In 2007, a computer expert showed that malware could be introduced into the state’s touch screen voting machines that could effect the vote tally. An investigation into that problem notably and oddly exempted the groups actually responsible for programming and testing those machines from that inquiry. Then, last August, a cybersecurity expert found security holes that left the state’s central election database, the poll books that are used to verify registrations, and the databases that are used to create ballots and actually tabulate the votes all vulnerable to hackers.
The fact that the state refused to address these issues before the 2016 election was even more curious when it was revealed that Georgia had been notified by the Obama administration that its election systems had been targeted for attack by the Russians and that the state had rejected help from the federal government in securing its electoral processes. And, in fact, there were reports of many voters in Fulton County being told they had reported to the wrong precinct because of a “glitch” in those very poll books that verified registrations, exactly the systems that the Russians had reportedly targeted. Even worse, these same vulnerabilities still existed when the hotly contested special election to replace Tom Price was held earlier this year.
On July 3rd of this year, a group of election reform advocates filed a lawsuit in an attempt to force the state of Georgia to finally address the problems with its voting systems. As part of that suit, the plaintiffs wanted access to a critical computer server that possibly could have revealed if last November’s general and this spring’s special elections had been compromised by hackers.
Interestingly and inexplicably, however, in the immediate aftermath of that suit, the computer system was wiped clean. According to the AP, “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.” In addition, just one month later, two backup servers that held similar data were also wiped clean.
As one expert noted, wiping the server clean “forestalls any forensic investigation at all. People who have nothing to hide don’t behave this way.” One of the plaintiffs added, “I don’t think you could find a voting systems expert who would think the deletion of the server data was anything less than insidious and highly suspicious.”
The person ultimately responsible for the data is the Georgia Secretary of State who claimed he did not authorize the destruction of the data and blamed it on the “the undeniable ineptitude” of the Kennesaw State University group that runs these systems. The university group said that wiping these servers was part of their “standard operating procedure.” I’m pretty sure that a judge will find destroying evidence in an ongoing legal case is not standard procedure.
Whatever the case, this probably means that it will now be impossible to discover whether there were any irregularities in the last two important elections in Georgia, although there is some hope that the data may have been captured by a prior FBI investigation of the state’s security problems back in March.
Faith in the efficacy of our democratic processes are already at an all-time low. The inability to actually physically count the ballots adds to that mistrust. That is compounded exponentially when it appears there are deliberate efforts to sabotage any investigations into the voting processes. And it is made even worse when that sabotage directly impedes an investigation into not so much whether but how deeply a foreign power attacked our elections and subverted our democracy.
Originally published at tidalsoundings.blogspot.com on October 30, 2017.