Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (right) and Russell Lewis, chief investigator with the Secretary of State’s Office, spoke at a press conference early Monday at Peachtree DeKalb Airport to talk about the state’s election readiness, before flying around the state to deliver the same message. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Georgia Democratic leader demands details on voter data breach

The chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia on Monday demanded that Secretary of State Brian Kemp accept help from the Department of Homeland Security after an alleged breach of confidential data that could affect millions of Georgia voter records.

DuBose Porter also criticized Kemp for disclosing few details about the nature and origin of the attack, and he raised concerns that it could affect the April 18 special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom Price.

“The security of — and confidence in — our voting system is the bedrock of American democracy,” Porter wrote. “It is your obligation to provide all Georgians with assurance that our voting system is sound and secure.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation launched an inquiry into the suspected cyberattack this month at the request of state officials after university staff told them records kept by the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University may have been compromised.

A hacker compromised information from the center for election systems, housed at Kennesaw State University.

Kemp’s office on Monday accused Porter of playing politics while trying to create a “manufactured crisis” to help Democratic candidates.

“While we have been patient as KSU works with the FBI to resolve this serious investigation, the Georgia Democrats are launching a manufactured crisis,” Kemp spokeswoman Candice Broce said. “They would love nothing more than for us to flout Georgia law and use paper ballots so they can challenge the results when they lose, but we will not cater to such childish antics.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Monday that there was nothing new to report on the investigation, which is ongoing. University officials have referred all questions to federal officials.

Kemp’s office has said the investigation is not related to its own network and is not a breach of its own, separate database containing the personal information of 6.6 million voters currently registered in Georgia.

Instead, the alleged breach appears to involve records used by the elections center to create electronic poll books (digital lists of eligible voters) used by poll workers in each of the state’s 3,000 precincts to verify voters’ names, addresses and registration.

The center pulls those names from the Secretary of State’s Office’s database, although the list at the center is itself not live on the internet.

Kemp, who oversees the state’s elections, has himself said little about the breach since The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the FBI’s involvement — aside from a brief statement expressing confidence that federal investigators would track down the perpetrator. He has also not responded to a letter demanding similar details that was sent last week by Democrat Jon Ossoff, one of 18 candidates in the race to fill the congressional seat Price vacated to become secretary of health and human services.

Porter’s letter urged Kemp to “immediately” accept an offer made by the Department of Homeland Security last year to scan the state’s elections infrastructure and offer advice on weak spots in the system.

The state experienced few problems during the presidential election, which saw record turnout among active voters.

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