From Secretary of State

SoS Office Releases Results of Investigation Into #PeachBreach

Secretary of State Brian Kemp released the findings of the administrative investigation into the cause of the data release that allowed personal identifying information on Georgia’s 6.1 million voters to be distributed to a dozen news and political party organization. The report is 30 pages long, and is backed up with eleven exhibits, including statements from employees, documents relating to procedures, emails, and policies within the Secretary of State’s IT department.

The report describes the State Download File, the list of voters, including address and vote history, but no personal identifying information, such as social security numbers or dates of birth. This file is produced on a monthly basis by contractor PCC Technology Corporation. The file is copied by PCC to a secure SFTP site that had only been accessible by former Secretary of State IT employee Gary Cooley. From that site, the file could be copied and distributed to organizations requesting it. Procedures for creating and distributing the information are covered in policies developed by the Secretary of State’s office.

In addition to the State Download File, the Secretary of State had produced a file for the Georgia Department of Revenue that contained Social Security numbers, drivers license numbers, and dates of birth. Before the transition from keeping voter data on a mainframe system to a server-based system, the custom file had been produced each January by Gary Cooley. The new server-based system meant that a new protocol for producing this data needed to be created, and this was requested by the Department of Revenue in August, 2014. Read more

Updated: #PeachBreach Report Delayed Until Monday

The results of an internal investigation into how personal information, including social security numbers, drivers license numbers and dates of birth of Georgia’s 6.2 million registered voters, was accidentally distributed to a dozen news and political party organizations will not be released today as originally planned. According to a press release from Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the report on the data release will be available Monday afternoon.

The report will document the events and timeline leading up to the release. Among the information to be released are 5,000 emails related to the release, personnel files for relevant employees, communications with the Georgia Department of Revenue and PCC Technology Group, job descriptions, and more. Also included with the report will be plans for remedial action.

These documents will be available for public inspection following the release of the report. Persons wanting to view these documents or with questions regarding the data release can contact the Secretary of State’s office hotline at 404-654-6065.

The release of the report, originally set for Thursday, December 10th, has taken longer than expected. According to a representative of the Secretary of State’s office, employees are continuing to prepare the report and supporting background documents.

Apparently Stacey Evans Isn’t Alone In Sending PSAs

Friend and GOP stalwart Justin Tomczak forwarded me an email from State Representative Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta) also encouraging her constituents to take preventative measures against identity theft.  Interestingly enough, the email is almost, an exact copy of Stacey Evans’ email that she sent out earlier this week.  The only exception is that Rep. Gardner’s email ends with “Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!” instead of another paragraph like Rep. Evans.

Either the honorable ladies have the same consultant who used a cookie cutter approach in order to seize the opportunity created by the Secretary of State’s mistake, or perhaps there is another person looking forward to the 2018 election.

Stacey Evans Wants You To Protect Your Personal Information (And Maybe Keep Her In Mind)

State Representative Stacey Evans (D-Symrna) sent out a newsletter to her constituents encouraging them to contact the three credit bureaus to set up an initial fraud alert.  This PSA comes in the wake of the Secretary of State’s office accidental release of personal information on voter database extracts.  Also in her PSA, she makes the note that now isn’t the time to play politics with the matter:

While I believe Secretary Kemp should be held responsible, now is not the time for politics. Right now, we need to make sure that the personal information of voters his office failed to keep safe has not been used in a nefarious manner.

Today isn’t the time to play politics with this accidental release, but it will be a target on the 2018 campaign trail.  It might be reading too much in to the email, but it makes you wonder if Rep. Evans is looking at a run for Secretary of State on the Democratic ticket in 2018.

SoS Brian Kemp Tries to Clear the Air on #PeachBreach

Let’s face it. It has not been a good week for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. Ever since the news broke on Wednesday that personal information on the state’s 6.1 million voters had accidentally been included in a voter file distributed to political parties and news media, There has been an effort by Secretary Kemp to explain what happened.

The latest attempt to explain the situation comes in a Friday evening press release from Kemp’s office titled “Update on Georgia’s Voter Registration Database Security.” It lays out the situation on the ground in bullet points:

  • The Secretary of State’s Office is required by law to share voter registration information with news media and political parties.  My office provides an update to these 12 organizations every month.  One IT employee who was responsible for managing voter registration information made a mistake and shared personal voter information with these 12 groups in October.
  • This employee knew he made a mistake but did not notify anyone.  I eventually found out about it late Friday afternoon when one of the recipients called to inform me of this extra information.
  • I immediately took action, investigated to find out the facts, and by Monday morning we had state investigators contacting these 12 organizations to retrieve the discs with the information.
  • To be clear – the voter registration system was not hacked.  Human error led to this information being shared with media and political parties.  All 12 discs have been recovered or confirmed they were destroyed by the recipients.  I am confident that all voter information is secure and safe.
  • A similar, but more limited, situation occurred once before in October of 2012.  An example is an Oconee county voter registration list was sent out with additional information.  All of the information was recovered at that time.
  • This was one of the problems that exposed that the long time IT bureaucracy in the agency was broken, so I hired a top consulting team to help completely restructure the entire IT department.  We hired almost all new personnel.  We also implemented an all new Voter Registration System that remains secure today.
  • Part of this overhaul was new security procedures that this IT employee did not follow.  His violation of the rules led to this human error.

As of today, here’s where we stand:

  • The IT employee has been fired.  I can confirm all of the discs have been secured or destroyed.
  • I am in the process of engaging Ernst & Young, a top international auditing firm that specializes in IT security, to conduct a thorough, top to bottom review of our entire operation.
  • In the meantime, I have implemented strict new rules governing the release of voter information.  Only the Chief Information Officer can make changes to the voter registration database, and only at my explicit direction.  Before any voter registration information is released, it will be reviewed by three of my senior staff.  This will not happen again.
  • I want to thank the news media and the political parties involved for working with us to resolve this unfortunate situation quickly.  They acted responsibly and voters can rest assured their information is safe.
  • If voters have any questions about this issue or need assistance, please visit our website or call our hotline set up for this issue:  404.654.6045.

I’d Like To Know Why The Department of Revenue Wants My Voter File

I was talking to a source at the Department of Revenue today about the DOR completely screwing local craft beer brewers at the behest of the Georgia Beer Wholesale Association. The source, by the way, completely agrees even though he works for DOR.

But in the conversation, the data breach at the Secretary of State’s office came up. He told me that the data had more likely than not been prepped by the Elections Division for the Department of Revenue. He specifically said that the Department of State will hand over the voter records and State will include the social security number, birthdate, and driver’s license number for DOR.

I understand interagency collaboration, but it seems that if voting is such a right, the state probably shouldn’t be using it for purposes other than voting, including letting DOR use it.

By the way, two other people confirm to me that in fact DOS was making all this data available to DOR, including the social security numbers, dates of birth, and driver’s license numbers.

Let’s set the record straight on #peachbreach

Last night, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp released a statement regarding the improper dissemination of Personal Information (PI) of 6.1 million current and former Georgia voters. This information included the full Social Security number, driver’s license number, and full date of birth for these individuals. Yesterday, I blogged about how Peach Pundit received the data and was part of the physical data recovery effort on the part of the GASOS office.

As I sit here this morning, there are still some problems with the response of the GASOS. Some of those problems involve Peach Pundit and myself. And given that we are talking about a potential $30.5 BILLION problem, accuracy is pretty important.

Let’s start with the fact that the list of disk recipients that the GASOS gave to the AJC is incorrect.

Read more

Georgia SOS Office treats data breach like nude selfie; asks boyfriends to delete from phone

Every month, usually the second week of the month, I receive a CD-ROM from the Georgia Secretary of State Election Office. About two years ago, I requested a copy of the Georgia voter file to perform some analysis of Georgia voters. As a press outlet (yes, we really are), I continue to receive this disk every month, delivered like clockwork to my home address. It’s useful on occasion when preparing investigative pieces, or for background for voter trends in Georgia.

I tend to save the data every few months to have a ‘fresh’ version, but don’t keep every copy. There are plenty of political parties and for-profit entities that track this data, and can provide much more meaningful analysis than I can.

Yesterday, Erick forwarded an email he had received via both the Redstate and WSB contact forms from an investigator with the GASOS office. The investigator was looking for me, and didn’t have anything but my name and address. This, despite the fact that the SOS form that I filled out requesting the Voter File contained my mobile number and contact information. The investigator sent the requests to Erick at 3:20PM, he forwarded them to me at 4PM, and I called at 4:10PM. The investigator asked if I still lived at the “Newcastle Drive” address, and if I was at home. I was not, I told him, but I could take a look for the disk later in the evening. “OK, then”, he said, “I’ll turn around”.

Excuse me?

Somebody wanted that disk back pretty badly.

Read more

Kemp: SEC primary means road to White House runs through South

The so-called SEC primary now has six states holding their presidential primaries on March 1, 2016.

OnlineAthens.com is reporting that Arkansas is the latest state to join Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s effort to give the South a larger voice in choosing the Republican and Democratic White House candidates.

Arkansas joins Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Other Southern states holding primaries around the same time next year are Louisiana (March 5); Mississippi (likely March 8); Florida and Missouri (March 15); South Carolina (Feb. 20); and Kentucky (possibly May 17).

“It is now clear that the road to the White House runs through the South,” Kemp said in a statement.

The SEC primary has also spawned a website, secprimary.com, reportedly the work of young Alabama Republican Jordan Doufexis, and a companion Twitter feed, @SECPrimary, with almost 300 followers.

Consider the GGTCFC(FKASEC)

Are you looking for a career with an organization that will immerse you in controversy, 20th century technological innovation, and the constant scrutiny of the AJC? Do you possess a solid work ethic, a positive attitude, and a valid Georgia driver’s license?

Then this is the job for you.

If you read the Daily this Tuesday, you’re aware that the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (formerly the State Ethics Commission) is looking for a new executive director, its fourth in three years. For simplicity’s sake – because if anything’s simple in this state, it’s ethics – I’ll refer to it as the GGTCFC(FKASEC).

Before you fire up WordPerfect to dust off that resume, take a moment to consider two of the primary functions of the GGTCFC(FKASEC): filings and disclosure, and enforcement and compliance with the Campaign Finance Act. To wit: Read more

Post-Electoral Legal Fight May Be On The Horizon

It’s crunch time for candidates, but the US Senate election here in the Peach State is getting attention from national media outlets. It’s a neck-and-neck race that could potentially break either way or be forced into a run-off that would take place in January 2015 (#moarcampaigncommercialsinyourstocking). Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Democratic Georgia House Minority Leader Stacy Abrams have been sparring back and forth over accusations of fraudulent voter registrations collected by the New Georgia Project and Third Sector Development.

The Hill has an article that outlines some potential legal battles that both sides may launch due to 40,000 of the 80,000 registrations that the New Georgia Project filed haven’t shown up on the voter rolls. Secretary Kemp has stated that all valid registrations filed through his office or the respective county elections office has been processed and will be able to vote on Tuesday (or today, 10/31, since the last day of early voting ends today).

A legal challenge could erupt from this in the event the US Senate race ends up being a tight race and breaks for Perdue, but it would be complex at best:

Nunn and Perdue have been deadlocked in public polling, while Carter has been within reach of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) too. In both races, if neither candidate reaches 50 percent outright because of third parties they will go to a runoff, further complicating the potential for legal action as fights over provisional ballots would eat into the month allotted for the governor’s race and nine weeks for the Senate race.

“Provisional ballots are just wrought with peril,” one Georgia Democrat told The Hill.

Republicans are also keeping a close eye on the court wrangling, though it’ll likely be Democrats and civil rights groups who have to do the heavy lifting to get their voters counted.

You can guarantee that both the Georgia Republican Party and Democratic Party of Georgia are starting to silently lawyer up in the event things get hairy on Tuesday night. Thankfully, we don’t have chads.

Brian Kemp Responds to Voter Registration Issues

Since Wednesday’s meeting of the Georgia Elections Board to discuss the subpoena by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to the New Georgia Project seeking information about potential fraudulent voter registration forms, there have been plenty of accusations about whether the SOS office was making a mountain over a molehill in an effort to intimidate the New Georgia Project. Stefan echoed some of these concerns in a post late yesterday afternoon.

This afternoon Kemp issued a statement and a fact check to bring some clarity to the situation.

In recent weeks there have been multiple reports in the media regarding the Office of the Secretary of State’s investigation into The New Georgia Project and Third Sector Development, some containing false information. I am issuing the following information in order to set the record straight. Yesterday, the State Elections Board unanimously affirmed our intent to fully investigate these possible criminal violations. We will vigorously and thoroughly investigate this and any situation involving possible voter registration fraud. I was elected as Georgia’s Secretary of State to ensure secure, accessible and fair elections. I will never retreat from that constitutional duty and obligation.

One big question was whether the 25 registration applications flagged as possibly bring fraudulent were previously identified by the New Georgia Project, which would mean the Secretary of State’s office had not found any evidence on its own. According to the fact check, the possibly fraudulent registration applications were identified by election workers:

Claim: The New Georgia project “flagged” the 25 fraudulent voter registration forms that have been confirmed as forgeries and delivered them to the Office of the Secretary of State.

Fact: Each and every one of the confirmed forgeries came to the Investigations Division from county elections officials. The New Georgia Project did not self-report any of the 25 confirmed forged voter registration forms.

Kemp’s office also refuted the claim there are over 50,000 voter registration applications at the Secretary of State’s office that aren’t being processed due to the investigation. Noting that the Georgia Code requires voter registration applications to be processed by county registrars, the fact sheet says that there are no applications in his office waiting to be sent to counties.

Anyone wanting to vote in the November election must be registered by October 6th. There is a sense that Democrats could be close to achieving their goal of registering enough voters to turn Georgia blue. With so much at stake, expect the claims and counterclaims from each side to continue.

Mike Buck requests recount in school superintendent’s race

“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no!” Or something.

Anyway, Mike Buck, who lost the Republican runoff for state school superintendent to Richard Woods by a razor-thin margin, has requested a recount, according to the Secretary of State’s office:

Michael L. “Mike” Buck, a Republican candidate for State School Superintendent, has requested a recount of all votes in the Republican Primary Runoff held on July 22, 2014.

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-2-495(c), the Secretary of State has notified all county election superintendents of Mr. Buck’s request and further directed that such superintendents conduct a recount of all votes cast in the Republican Primary Runoff for State School Superintendent.

Such recount is to be held and completed no later than 12:00 noon on Thursday, July 31, 2014.

The recount shall be conducted by each superintendent in accordance with O.C.G.A. § 21-2- 495(c) and the Rules of the State Election Board.

Not saying it’s not going to happen, after all, Buck lost by just 713 votes. But one has to wonder what the chances of Tuesday’s runoff being reversed actually are.

April 21 is Voting Deadline for Primary

One week remains for people to register to vote in the May 20 primary election.

Georgians with a valid Georgia driver’s license can go online and register here.

The “My Voter Page” (MVP) app also allows Georgians to register to vote.  They can view their specific sample ballot, find their polling locations, check voter registration status and track the status of their absentee ballot. All of this information is available on mobile devices on Apple and Android platforms.  To find the app search for “GA Votes” in the app store.

Kemp recently launched the new systems at a combined meeting of the Georgia Election Officials Association/Voter Registrars Association of Georgia in Augusta, GA with election leaders from across the state.

Georgia is the first state in the nation to offer both online registration as well as an innovative mobile application that enables voter registration like the “MVP” process.

Georgia’s Election Performance Gets Dinged By Pew

This article from the AJC (thanks to South Fulton Guy for passing it along through the Tip Line) highlights the state’s online voter registration system that came online earlier this week, and posits the question on whether or not it will help Georgia’s election performance:

Worsening return rates from overseas ballots, increases in the number of people not voting due to disability or illness, and one of the longest wait times in the nation all marred the Peach State’s performance in the 2012 presidential election compared with just four years earlier, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Georgia had the biggest ratings decline in the nation in the latest elections performance review that Pew released nationally Tuesday. It was one of only 10 states whose scores decreased, according to the nonpartisan analysis that overall lauded most states for improving their elections work. First launched in 2010, this is the first time Pew researchers have compared similar elections over time using the same measures.

The findings put a harsh glare on a state gearing up to run a midterm primary election May 20, including contested party races for governor and several seats in Congress that have drawn national attention to Georgia and are expected to increase turnout next month at the polls.

State officials themselves acknowledged some problems and have begun making a number of changes.
“Overall, I’m not concerned,” Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said about the findings. “I think we’re doing a lot of good things to increase participation and prevent cheating.”

The state did not rank last — it clocked in at 32nd.

To be fair, though, the state did switch to a new vote reporting system in 2012, so some of the bugs were still shaking out (hopefully, 2014’s election cycle will go more smoothly). The article mentions that and the fact that the Secretary of State’s office was unable to pass along some of the data to the researchers.

Online registration will make it more convenient for citizens to register to vote or to change their address. Upgrades to the My Voter Page are also much appreciated with a refreshed look and more information available. But, will this be enough? Will Georgia see a larger voter participation rate this year than in previous years? What say you?