When people look back on the 2016 elections and special elections that resulted, the question of what if will always linger in the back of their minds. It’s a fact that Russians meddled in the American election process. To what degree is what we really need to know, especially so we can prevent it from ever happening again. We do know, now, that their meddling went far beyond the presidential election, and they’ve tested the state-level elections. We would be able to look more directly into those state-level issues if Republicans weren’t trying to obstruct every step of the way — especially when those results ended up in their own victories.
Back in June, Georgia’s 6th District held a special election to replace now-defunct Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price’s congressional seat. Democrats came as close to flipping the district as they could; however, it was a devastating loss for many, as it was seen as a predictor of future elections in 2018. Republican nominee Karen Handel won the election with 51.78 percent with Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff pulling in at 48.22 percent.
Although Democrats begrudgingly accepted the loss, irregularities were found on a server that was used as a “statewide staging location for key election-related data. What was discovered was a major weakness in the integrity of the server, which was allowed to remain for six months, although it had been reported previously to election officials.
After the revelation was made, the server was conveniently wiped clean on July 7 at Kennesaw State University. At question, though, is the timeline of when it was wiped. According to the AP, the server itself was wiped clean three days after a lawsuit was filed challenging the integrity of the election system. Though it was wiped on July 7, Georgia’s Assistant State Attorney General Cristina Correia originally claimed in an email to attorneys on Oct. 6 that the server was wiped clean on March 17.
The importance of the server was beyond paramount.
Additionally, the way the election system is programmed, there is no way to audit the results, due to the use of outdated technology.
In other words, any chance of challenging the Republican victory in the 6th District was completely wiped clean on July 7.
With this major error in timelines and inaccurate information, it’s been reported now that the assistant state attorney general has officially informed the proper officials that Georgia’s own attorney general’s office will NOT be handling that case. According to the AP:
‘The assistant state attorney general handling the case, Cristina Correia, notified the court and participating attorneys Wednesday that her office was withdrawing from the case, according to an email obtained by The Associated Press. Spokeswoman Katelyn McCreary offered no explanation and said she couldn’t comment “on pending matters.”’
The main defendant in the case is Secretary of State Brian Kemp — who is also running for governor in 2018. His spokesperson has claimed there was a conflict of interest.
‘Campaign spokesman Ryan Mahoney said in a text message that the conflict stems from “too many co defendants with potential differences in strategy, approach, etc.’
In a campaign statement from Mahoney, he commented:
‘There is no scandal or vast conspiracy. This is a tasteless nothingburger cooked up by liberal activists who know their lawsuit is nothing short of stupid.’
However, Richard DeMillo, a computer scientist with Georgia Tech, commented:
‘People who have nothing to hide don’t behave this way.’
One funny issue that comes up, however, is the fact that shortly after the server was wiped, Kemp actually called it “reckless, inexcusable, and inept.” However, it’s a “tasteless nothingburger now.”
So, what does this mean? We will never know what an election free from the meddling of Russians would have resulted in. What we do know is that several conflicts arise when you look at all the explanations and the timelines. Marilyn Marks, who is the executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, remarked:
‘There have been multiple conflicting stories of how and when the evidence on the servers was destroyed.’
What we can learn if we dig far enough, however, is what needs to be done to preserve the integrity of our election systems from foreign agencies and from our very own domestic agencies. You can check out some Twitter responses to the news below.
Featured image by David McNew/Getty Images.