With just days to go before the midterms, two Democrats are accusing Republican Brian Kemp of downplaying election security for his own political gain in his run for Georgia governor. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) calls the potential insecurity of Georgia’s paperless voting machines a “disaster.” And Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) told me the fact that Georgia voters will be going to the polls without a paper backup is “outrageous.” “Secretary of State Kemp has shown a total disregard for election security,” Wyden said in an email. “He seems to see a personal benefit to ignoring the urgent warnings from experts and intelligence agencies about the threats to Georgia’s election system.”
In a bitterly divided Congress, election integrity was expected to be an issue where lawmakers could find bipartisan consensus. But it’s poised to get even more political as Democrats promise to make election security a key priority if they are able to gain power in Washington after the midterms. For now, they are focusing their ire on Kemp, who as secretary of state controls Georgia’s voter rolls — and is currently administering his own election battle against Democrat Stacey Abrams.
Kemp has resisted pressure — and the overwhelming recommendations of security experts and policymakers — to use paper ballots in the midterms amid concerns about the security of the state’s electronic voting machines. Election integrity advocates brought a federal lawsuit seeking to force the state to adopt paper ballots in the midterms amid fears that votes will not be safe from potential hackers, especially from Russia. Last month, a federal judge denied a motion that would have forced Georgia to adopt paper ballots ahead of the midterms.
Voting advocates have also accused Kemp of improperly preventing new citizens from joining the voter rolls. And in a win for civil rights groups, a federal judge ruled last week that Georgia election officials must stop rejecting absentee ballots or applications for ballots with mismatched signatures. With Kemp locked in a dead heat with Abrams, the stakes are high. And the legal battles have prompted questions from Democrats over whether Kemp is trying to suppress turnout for those who might support Abrams, who if elected would be the country’s first black female governor — which he denies.