Maaaaayyyybeeee, but it also seems like a big coincidence to do so when the secretary of state is on the gubernatorial ballot two days later. Brian Kemp’s office announced yesterday that he has opened a probe into the Georgia Democratic Party after his office detected attempts to intrude on the state’s voting systems. Kemp and his office didn’t share any details of the attempted “hack,” other than it was a phishing attempt:
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s dual roles as both referee and Republican competitor in the state’s gubernatorial election collided Sunday, when the government office he controls announced an investigation into the Georgia Democratic Party for an alleged “hacking” attempt into the voter registration system and his campaign for governor subsequently condemned the “criminal behavior” he allegedly discovered.
But neither Kemp’s campaign nor his secretary of state’s office provided evidence that Democrats had tried to hack into Georgia’s voter registration system.
Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, said in an interview that Democrats were in possession of an email with script attached to it that, if launched, could have been used to extract personal voter registration data.
The e-mail at issue did come through the Democratic Party, their officials said in response, as an alert to the phishing attempt. A volunteer forwarded it to their cybersecurity team, which then advised other cybersecurity experts. At that point, Kemp’s office got notified — at least according to the Democrats.
That didn’t stop Kemp’s office from sending out a statement identifying the Democratic Party as the target of the probe:
“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 cyber crimes,” said Candice Broce, Press Secretary. “We can also confirm that no personal data was breached and our system remains secure.”
So here we have two choices: it’s either entirely coincidental, or it’s an Election Eve body check into the boards. Even if it was entirely coincidental, though, why would Kemp’s office name the target of the investigation before putting a case together? Wouldn’t it be more cautious to just note that a case had been opened without naming potential suspects, and especially their political affiliation, two days before a general election?
Earlier today, Kemp insisted he had no choice but to make it public. Imagine, he argued, if it had come out after the election rather than before it. Why, the media might have crucified him for keeping silent!
“I’m doing my job,” Kemp said. “This is how we would handle any investigation when something like this comes up. Because I can assure you if I hadn’t done anything and the story came out that something was going on, you’d be going, ‘Why didn’t you act?'”
Well, maybe, if in fact Kemp didn’t act when evidence of a hacking attempt came to his attention. I somehow doubt that the national media would have pilloried him for not pointing the finger at Democrats, however, even if Kemp can produce evidence that they were involved in it. The proper way of handling this would be to alert people to an investigation but to remain mum on its targets until a referral could be made to prosecutors, or fines handed out.
Needless to say, Democrats and Stacy Abrams weren’t amused:
Democrats blasted Kemp on Sunday, charging him with launching a shameless “political stunt” two days before Election Day.
Kemp’s office told NBC News on Sunday that the secretary of state would release additional information “as soon as we can.” That afternoon, Kemp’s office said he opened the investigation “after receiving information from our legal team about failed efforts to breach the online voter registration system and My Voter Page.”
Earlier, Democrats had demanded that Kemp either resign his office or temporarily remove himself from it as a gubernatorial candidate. Jimmy Carter himself endorsed the idea last week, even though both offices are elected and there’s no precedential reason to DQ a sitting secretary of state merely for running for office. Kemp remained secretary of state when running for re-election in 2010 and 2014, for instance.
If Kemp can’t substantiate this allegation with specific evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Democratic Party officials, he’s basically proven them correct. If, on the other hand, Kemp does have such evidence, it’s going to make that demand look awfully coincidental in context. And the level of belief in coincidences drops in direct proportion to the declining time to the actual casting of ballots.