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Lawsuit Accuses Gov. Kemp and Staff of Conspiring to Commit Voter Intimidation Through False 2018 ‘Hacking’ Accusation

The Georgia Democratic Party (GDP) filed a federal lawsuit this week accusing Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and several members of his staff of illegally conspiring to swing the 2018 gubernatorial race in his favor by knowingly amplifying false “hacking” allegations against Democrats two days ahead of the election.

Kemp, who at the time was Georgia’s secretary of state, released a statement on his office’s official webpage which claimed to “confirm that the Democratic Party of Georgia is under investigation for possible cybercrimes,” after a “failed hacking attempt.” The secretary’s webpage is also where voters are able to check their registration status and find polling locations in the state.

Kemp, who went on to beat Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams in one of the closest races in state history, was widely condemned after it was revealed that the hacking accusation wildly misstated the facts.

The genesis of the hacking allegation stemmed from emails sent by Richard Wright, a Georgia web developer, after he discovered a series of security flaws in the Secretary of State’s voting website. Wright reported the vulnerabilities to an election lawyer, who then reported the problem to Kemp’s office as well as the Democratic Party of Georgia’s voter protection team and a few voting rights groups.

“The election lawyer, the Democratic Party of Georgia, a nonprofit voting rights organization, and the FBI all reported the flaws to the Secretary of State’s Office,” Democrats wrote in the filed complaint. “But of all the people who knew about and reported the security flaws, including Kemp’s own lawyer, Defendants accused only the Democratic Party of Georgia of criminal activity.”

According to the lawsuit, there was one actual attempt to infiltrate the government’s electronic voting data, but it was part of a security check requested by Kemp’s office.

“There had also been what the Secretary of State believed to be an attempted ‘intrusion’ on the Secretary of State’s website,” the complaint stated. “But this turned out to be the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which was testing the website’s security at the request of the Secretary of State.”

Georgia Democrats are claiming Kemp accusing the party of committing cybercrimes “without an iota of evidence,” amounted to unconstitutional voter intimidation under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 and the Voting Rights Act.

“Defendants’ knowingly false accusations served to intimidate, threaten and deter the Democratic Party of Georgia’s member-voters, and constituted retaliation against the Party for its support and advocacy for Democratic candidates,” the complaint said. “To protect the integrity of future elections in Georgia, Defendants must be held accountable for their violations of federal law.”

As previously reported by Law&Crime, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) never even opened a probe into the party after finding there was no evidence that any crime occurred. An investigation of Kemp’s initial allegations “revealed no evidence of damage to the [Secretary of State] network or computers, and no evidence of theft, damage, or loss of data,” GBI wrote in a report published in March.

The lawsuit seeks “$20.00 or less” and attorney’s fees, as well as an order directing Kemp to remove the hacking investigation announcement from the secretary of state’s website.

Read the full lawsuit below.

Georgia Dems Lawsuit Against Kemp by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.