Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: Kemp bungles, blusters and blames


In its role as arbiter and overseer of elections, the office of Georgia secretary of state should operate as a public trust, ensuring all voters that the process of casting and counting votes will be fair and that nobody is trying to put a thumb on the scale to affect an election’s outcome.  Its sacred duty is to protect not just the sanctity of the vote but the public’s faith in the sanctity of the vote.

Brian Kemp has taken that concept of his office and he has thoroughly, completely trashed it.  Contrary to his duties, he has used the office of secretary of state to carry out an ongoing and far-reaching effort to try to influence the outcome of elections and to give his own party and his own political ambitions an unfair advantage. By doing so, he has undercut the very foundation of democratic self-government.

Kemp’s sole redeeming grace is that he has generally been incompetent in those efforts. He launches high-profile investigations that then produce nothing and quietly disappear. He pushes the boundaries of law, regulation and the Constitution to suppress turnout, alleging that somebody somewhere is somehow trying to perpetrate voter fraud, even if he never seems to catch them, and has been forced to retreat repeatedly by legal challenges. At one point late in the 2016 election cycle, he even accused the federal government and the Obama administration -- falsely, and without evidence -- of trying to hack into Georgia’s system.

Over the weekend, we were given another classic reminder of how Kemp has run his office, and how he could be expected to function should he be elected Georgia’s next governor. The bungling, the misplaced priorities, the knee-jerk reaction and the instant attempt to pursue partisan advantage instead of addressing real issues -- Kemp has once again put them all on clear display for all the nation to see, to Georgia’s considerable embarrassment.

In this latest incident, Kemp’s office was apparently warned over the weekend that Georgia’s electronic system of protecting voter-registration information may be wide open to hacking, creating the potential for outside agents to change voter information that could throw the entire system into turmoil.  If true, it would not be the first time that Kemp’s office had failed to keep such data secure.

“This is the equivalent of having the bank safe door open,” international cybersecurity expert Harri Hursti told whowhatwhy.org. “And while it’s open, you have the bank safe code posted on the door. People who have built this have no idea what they’re doing.” 

Confronted with such a grave allegation on the eve on an election, a competent officeholder concerned with the integrity of the ballot would have immediately ordered a full investigation, promising to close any vulnerabilities as soon as possible.

Kemp, being neither competent nor particularly concerned about election integrity, instead chose to announce an investigation into the people who warned him about those vulnerabilities.

More specifically, Kemp announced that he had ordered a investigation into the Democratic Party of Georgia, accusing the organization of launching a cyber-attack on the state’s voter-registration database. As with his allegations in 2016, he has offered no evidence whatsoever that any such attack occurred by anyone, let alone by Democrats, but to take the attention off his own potential misfeasance he has nonetheless posted those groundless allegations on the taxpayer-funded homepage of the secretary of state’s office.

Based on what is known so far, the only role played by the Democratic Party had been to notify Kemp’s office of allegations raised by a third party of a gaping weakness in the state’s system, which is exactly what responsible party officials should have done under those circumstances. To then accuse the party of doing what they were trying to prevent is ridiculous.

Unfortunately, it is also entirely consistent with Kemp’s long track record of bungle, bluster and then blame someone else.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.