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Kemp: University's blunder led to elections server issue
Office's data management returned to state control from Kennesaw State
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Secretary of State Brian Kemp speaks to the Hall County Republican Party on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Gainesville. - photo by Nick Bowman

Secretary of State Brian Kemp said Saturday the elections server mishap at Kennesaw State University was caused by bad management at the school.

Kemp, a candidate for governor making a campaign stop in Gainesville to talk to the Hall County Republican Party, said the decision to wipe a server critical to an elections-related lawsuit against the secretary of state and his office was made by the school and was “really incompetence on their part that we had no knowledge of.”

Election reform advocates filed a suit against the secretary of state last July 3. Four days later, server managers at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University wiped the server holding information critical to the lawsuit, which was filed over the state’s aging elections equipment.

In October, the school told The Associated Press that the server wipe was “standard operating procedure,” while Kemp’s office said at the time that the action was caused by “undeniable ineptitude.”

The Center for Elections Systems is responsible for storing and managing data related to elections in Georgia.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the secretary of state, Coalition for Good Governance Executive Director Marilyn Marks, said after the wipe was discovered that she was skeptical.

“I don’t think you could find a voting systems expert who would think the deletion of the server data was anything less than insidious and highly suspicious,” she said.

Kemp doubled down on that argument Saturday, saying the school was aware its systems had been proven vulnerable to attack and never shared that information with the state.

“It was their server, and they just wouldn’t talk to us about it,” Kemp said. “I think it was handled very poorly by Kennesaw State. They weren’t very transparent, and I think there’s been a lot of fallout from that.”

He told the audience that he considered moving the Center for Elections Systems to other universities, but ultimately decided to withdraw it back under the watch of his office.

“We’re just about finished with that transition,” Kemp said. “It’s gone very well.”

He emphasized that the state’s elections systems are secure, but added that Georgia’s elections systems are “often” targeted by hackers.

“We have 24-hour, seven-days-a-week monitoring when elections are going on. We also have a network security provider that monitors everything that’s coming into our site to make sure we don’t get hacked,” Kemp said. “That’s a moving animal right there — it’s something the private sector and the public sector is dealing with everyday. 

“We get targeted often.”