Brian Kemp, Georgia's secretary of state and the Republican candidate for governor, is accusing the Georgia Democratic Party of trying to hack the state's voter registration system.
"After a failed attempt to hack the state's voter registration system, the Secretary of State's office opened an investigation into the Democratic Party of Georgia on the evening of Saturday, November 3, 2018," Kemp's office explained in a statement. "Federal partners, including the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation, were immediately alerted."
The statement then quoted press secretary Candice Broce as saying, "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. We can also confirm that no personal data was breached and our system remains secure."
Rebecca DeHart, the executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party, issued a statement denouncing Kemp's actions as "yet another example of abuse of power by an unethical Secretary of State." She argued that Kemp's "scurrilous claims are 100 percent false" and described them as a "political stunt from Kemp just days before the election is yet another example of why he cannot be trusted and should not be overseeing an election in which he is also a candidate for governor."
Her comment about Kemp's impartiality echoed a concern voiced by former President Jimmy Carter last month. In a letter to Kemp's office, Carter argued that it was a conflict of interest for the Secretary of State to oversee an election in which he is also a candidate.
"This runs counter to the most fundamental principle of democratic elections — that the electoral process be managed by an independent and impartial election authority. Other secretaries of state have stepped down while running for election within their jurisdiction, to ensure that officials without a direct stake in the process can take charge and eliminate concerns about a conflict of interest," Carter wrote.
He added, "In order to foster voter confidence in the upcoming election, which will be especially important if the race ends up very close, I urge you to step aside and hand over to a neutral authority the responsibility of overseeing the governor’s election. This would not address every concern, but it would be a sign that you recognize the importance of this key democratic principle and want to ensure the confidence of our citizens in the outcome."
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor, told CNN on Sunday that Kemp's accusations are "a desperate attempt on the part of my opponent to distract people from the fact that two different federal judges found him derelict in his duties. He is desperate to turn the conversation away from his failures, from his refusal to honor his commitments and from the fact that he is part of a nationwide system of voter suppression that will not work in this election."
There is an irony to Kemp suddenly expressing concern for the integrity of the voting process. As journalist Greg Palast explained to Salon last month, Kemp has overseen massive voter disenfranchisement during his tenure as Georgia's secretary of state.
"Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, purged 550,702 Georgians from the voter rolls in 2016 and 2017 — that is, canceled their registrations," Palast told Salon. "I’m not guessing. After much resistance, Kemp turned over the names and addresses of each one of these purged voters in response to a threat of a federal lawsuit (which I filed in federal court in Atlanta and served on Kemp Friday)."
He added, "Of these, we are certain that 340,134 were wrongly removed, with no notice that they were purged. I want to thank Salon for your report, which went viral, letting Georgians know my foundation had listed all the names of the purged at GregPalast.com."