Georgia’s election officials were all bent out of shape last fall when the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wanted to designate American election infrastructure as critical to national security. As Sec. of State Brian Kemp explained in his recent USA Today op-ed, it’s really just a matter of state sovereignty. We don’t want the federal government telling us how to run our elections, is what Kemp is telling Georgians. In fact, he thinks so little of DHS, he wants you to believe the federal government (ours, not Russia’s) is the one hacking Georgia’s election system in a “massive attack,” according to a complaint filed by Kemp’s office last January.
The Inspector General of DHS investigated Kemp’s allegations and found to the Secretary’s embarrassment that what he had characterized as a massive attack, was actually normal web traffic. Never mind murmured Kemp.
A more likely explanation for the critical infrastructure freak-out is that the Secretary of State’s office treats the protection of computerized election system like a high school science fair project, not a precious resource to be protected. Wouldn’t that be embarrassing if the Feds showed up to check on his ability to manage critical infrastructure?
Way back in the early days of electronic voting in Georgia, then SoS Cathy Cox, a Democrat, set up the Center for Election Systems (CES) at Kennesaw State University to test, program, maintain and provide training for the Diebold-based touchscreen voting machines and associated servers, networks, and software.
CES Director Michael Barnes served as an enthusiastic tour guide to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, which posted this video on YouTube™
A well-positioned sign announced the state’s central technology organization, helpfully displaying its precise location. No guards or even a receptionist to check the identities of visitors; no ID badges to distinguish students who were authorized to be there from those who merely wanted to examine the piles of election equipment and computers that had been left unattended in otherwise unsupervised rooms.
You would think that an important system like this would have the eye of top university leadership. Director Barnes says no. CES is just another department in the school of science.
The most likely explanation for the Secretary’s over-the-top reaction to the suggestion that Georgia’s election system be classified as critical infrastructure is that the state’s election officials do not think it is that important, and they would prefer that not be widely known.