clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Brian Kemp’s office opens investigation into Georgia Democratic Party days ahead of the election

It seems a little fishy.

Georgia gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp shake hands before a debate in Atlanta in October.
Georgia gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp shake hands before a debate in Atlanta in October.
John Bazemore-Pool/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

Georgia secretary of state and Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp has raised eyebrows with some fishy tactics heading into his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams. The latest development: His office announced an “investigation into the Democratic Party of Georgia” over an alleged election registry system breach.

On Sunday, Kemp’s office said that it opened the probe on Saturday after “a failed attempt to hack the state’s voter registration system,” about which it alerted the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. It later provided more but limited details, saying it had received information from its legal team about an attempted breach and was “working with our private sector vendors and investigators to review data logs.”

Kemp’s office also asked the FBI to investigate possible cyber crimes.

The timing of the announcement just two days before the election is curious, and there are no details on what exactly is alleged to have happened. Democrats, who have complained that it is unethical for Kemp to oversee an election he’s competing in, cried foul.

Rebecca DeHart, the executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party, said in a statement to NBC News that the party “did not create, discover, or attempt to take advantage of the deeply vulnerable system” used by Kemp’s office and slammed the move as “yet another example of abuse of power” by the secretary of state.

“To be very clear, Brian Kemp’s scurrilous claims are 100 percent false, and this so-called investigation was unknown to the Democratic Party of Georgia until a campaign operative in Kemp’s official office released a statement this morning,” DeHart said. “This 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.”

Kemp overseeing an election he’s running in hasn’t been ideal

In an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Abrams said it was a “desperate attempt” by Kemp to “distract people from the fact that two different federal judges found him derelict in his duties and have forced him to allow absentee ballots to be counted and [to allow] those who are being captive by the ‘exact match’ system … to vote.”

A federal judge on Friday ruled that Georgia must ease its “exact match” rules that look for discrepancies between voter registration files and other official records (think of things like dropped hyphens) and flag those voters as potential noncitizens. A couple of weeks before, a federal court ruled that Georgia election officials had to stop tossing out absentee ballots because voters’ signatures didn’t match those on record or because they were missing birth dates or addresses.

Kemp’s antics have fueled charges of voter suppression, especially after 53,000 voter registration applications, mostly from black voters, were put on hold, again over the state’s exact match rules for names. He was caught saying in leaked audio that he is “concerned” about Abrams’ efforts to get out the vote.

In a letter in October, former President Jimmy Carter called for Kemp to step down and “hand over to a neutral authority the responsibility of overseeing the governor’s election.” Carter, a Georgia native, endorsed Abrams in August and appeared with her at a campaign event.

Kemp this week told ABC News the suggestion that he’s suppressing the vote is a “myth” from Democrats.

Abrams and Kemp were supposed to take part in their final debate this weekend, but Kemp abandoned the schedule and will instead campaign with President Donald Trump at a rally in Macon. The two sides couldn’t agree on a new time.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.