Editor's Note: The #PeachBreach and you 

NO GOOD DEED goes unpunished.

No truer words have ever been uttered.

As diligent, passionate Savannah voters were recovering from their post-election hangover—and rallying for one more go at it with this Tuesday’s runoff—came some very disconcerting news.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office has revealed confidential personal data, including Social Security numbers, of every single voter in the state.

That’s 6.1 million voters, including every person who did their civic duty and took part in the City of Savannah elections, as well as the 65 percent of them who are registered to vote but didn’t bother.

While most issues like this involve hacking or obvious malicious intent by identity thieves, apparently Kemp’s error involved an IT staffer—since thrown under the bus and fired—distributing at least 12 CDs of the, um, enhanced voter info to the media and political parties.

Releasing some of that data in that fashion is allowed. Indeed, generally speaking, new voter registration info is released as public information once a month.

But some of the more private information on the discs was mistakenly included this time around, including SSNs and drivers license numbers, unencrypted and not password-protected.

There is, of course, absolutely no way to tell if any of those CDs was burned to an unauthorized computer. But what do you think the odds are that none were copied, in this day and age?

(The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which broke the story, returned its copy of the disc to Kemp’s office. Reportedly the other 11 have also been returned.)

Of even more concern is the fact that information on those discs enters an automatic updating system.

So even if Joe Blow didn’t burn a copy onto his laptop, the info has coursed through multiple databases for at least a month now.

Make no mistake: This is a big, big deal.

Kemp, however, prefers to call his office’s disaster—since hashtagged #PeachBreach—a “clerical error.”

Now, this is the same Brian Kemp who a few years ago threatened to shut down public access to the state-run Georgia Archives in Morrow, Ga., because of budget cuts! Had he succeeded Georgia would have been the only state in the union with a shuttered state archive.

(Thankfully, the Legislature took the Archives out of the Secretary of State’s hands and they’re now administered by the University System of Georgia.)

Let’s just say Secretary Kemp seems to have some serious boundary issues.

The irony of all this in a time of new “reforms” when you practically have to hand over your first-born child just to renew your drivers license is especially incensing.

The Democratic Party of Georgia has begun a class action lawsuit against Kemp, who the day after the lawsuit was filed revealed another, smaller data breach in 2012, previously undisclosed.

Also at the heart of the issue is something a bit more insidious but less widely known: The company which administers your voting data is apparently the same one that runs Kemp’s own website, and the website of the Georgia Republican Party.

While actual foul play seems unlikely given the ham-handed nature of the data breach, the controversy points out that issues of crony capitalism—i.e., the abuse of taxpayer funds by private sector companies with government contracts—isn’t just a local City of Savannah issue.

Not by a long shot.

The most absurd irony of all, however, came when Kemp was asked to mediate a Savannah election issue.

Supporters of Mayor Edna Jackson were alleged to have illegally and systematically handed out campaign literature outside polling places on Nov. 3 within the 150-foot legal barrier.

So Jackson seems to have boundary issues of her own. When asked about it, she pointedly said those people would quit the practice “if they were told to.”

Kemp, suddenly embroiled in the #PeachBreach controversy, canceled a scheduled visit to Savannah to investigate and supposedly lay down the law.

As if we didn’t have enough problems down here!

This is Kemp’s second and presumably final term. If he ever decides to run for higher office, hopefully the wrath of the voters he has abused will be merciless, and complete.


About The Author

Jim Morekis

Jim Morekis

A native Savannahian, Jim has been editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah for ten years. The University of Georgia graduate is also a travel writer, authoring regional guides in the Moon handbook series... more

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Connect Today 10.23.2016

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