Georgia’s secretary of state has made headlines again, for what feels like the thousandth time this election cycle. Brian Kemp, the self-styled “politically incorrect conservative” and Republican gubernatorial candidate, caused a commotion on Sunday when his office announced that it was opening an investigation into the Democratic Party of Georgia for “a failed attempt to hack the state's voter registration system.”
Kemp’s accusations tied the alleged cyberattack to Rachel Small, a volunteer for the Democratic Party. Small had received an email from a man named Richard Wright detailing vulnerabilities in Georgia’s voter registration site that enabled access to personal information and restricted files. Small then forwarded the message to Sara Ghazal, the Democrats' director of voter protection.
Given that Wright was not affiliated with the party and that there was no evidence of actual meddling in the election, Kemp’s reaction seemed overblown, especially since the Democratic Party had been so transparent about the issue. The fact that the investigation targeted the organization and not Richard Wright himself was highly suspect. Democratic officials quickly condemned the attack as a thinly veiled attempt at voter manipulation in the final moments of a tight race between Kemp and his liberal opponent Stacey Abrams.
Ironically, if the weaknesses described by Wright were legitimate, the blame for the system's shortcomings ought to fall squarely on Kemp’s shoulders. As secretary of state, he was responsible for overseeing the gubernatorial election. Up until recently, his name, title, and portrait sat at the top of the voter registration website that Wright mentioned in his email.
It is likely that Kemp’s system has already been infiltrated once before. During the 2016 presidential election, security researcher Logan Lamb accessed an election server and successfully downloaded the information of Georgia’s 6.7 million registered voters. Despite this revelation, Kemp refused security assistance from the Department of Homeland Security. Unsurprisingly, Georgia was one of the few states listed as a possible target for cyberattacks in correspondence between the 12 Russian intelligence officials that were indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in July of 2018.
Kemp’s predisposition to abuse power and his dismissal of credible threats make him unfit to occupy the highest seat of authority in the state. The fact that his position granted him jurisdiction over the very election to which he was party presented a clear conflict of interest, one that Kemp denied but took advantage of time and time again, even at the last minute when Georgia's outdated voting machines conveniently malfunctioned and created unreasonably long lines at polls. The least he could have done was recuse himself from the race for governor.
That thought probably never crossed his mind, though. After all, Kemp is the nightmarish product of an administration that spews lies and misinformation, one that has convinced its base of the evil machinations of the “enemy party” and the distribution of fake news by a biased media.
Kemp is an irrational populist whose campaign was predicated entirely on fear-mongering, finger-pointing, and appeals to the most radical factions within society, chiefly white nationalists and members of the alt-right. His base overlooked or embraced even his most outrageous, unforgivable acts, and the Republican label attached to his name ensured that even the more rational members of the party, while they might hold their noses, would still cast their ballots in his favor.
Lobbing unfounded accusations was one of the many tried-and-true tactics employed by Kemp; the strategy was disturbingly effective when he accused the Obama Administration of meddling in 2016.
As much as he loves casting blame on Democrats, no one has done more to disenfranchise voters and corrupt the process than Kemp himself. From 2012 to 2016, he purged more than half a million “inactive” voters from registration lists. Recently, a coalition of civil rights groups brought a lawsuit against Kemp for halting the registration of 53,000 residents, 70% of whom were African American.
Kemp’s political rap sheet stretches a mile long and contains enough racism, misogyny, deceit, and wrongdoing to make the Trump administration swoon. He has so disgraced himself and his party that he ought to quit politics entirely; instead, he's seeking a promotion.
While the outcome of the election is still up in the air, Kemp has already resigned from his former office and presumptuously declared victory. Currently, he holds 50.3% of the vote, but outstanding provisional and absentee ballots could easily send the race into a runoff. The silver lining is that Kemp would no longer be in a position to cheat his way to victory if that were to happen. In the meantime, he remains slightly ahead of Abrams—63,000 votes ahead, to be exact. Brian Kemp represents the worst aspects of American politics. Hopefully, Georgia will not grant him the privilege of holding the distinguished office.