AG To Withdraw From Defense Of Secretary Of State In Ga. Election Integrity Case

Sources tell WABE, that the state’s Attorney General’s office will no longer represent Secretary of State Brian Kemp in a lawsuit over Georgia’s elections system.

David Goldman / Associated Press file

Georgia’s Attorney General’s office will no longer represent the Secretary of State in a lawsuit over the integrity of Georgia’s elections system, multiple sources have confirmed to WABE.

The case has drawn national attention and recently revealed the erasure of an election server at Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems days after the suit was filed.

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A private law firm, Barnes Law Group, LLC, will step in to defend Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office. Former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes leads that firm.

“Governor Barnes and I don’t see eye to eye on everything, but he will be a zealous advocate for the State Election Board and the Secretary of State to show that these claims are baseless. We look forward to working with him as we continue to provide secure elections in Georgia,” said Kemp in a prepared statement.

The Attorney General’s office declined to comment for this story.

The suit was brought in July by the Coalition for Good Governance, an elections integrity advocacy group. It seeks to require the state re-examine the state’s election system, and prohibit the systems use in next week’s municipal elections.

In addition to the Secretary of State’s Office, the suit names the elections offices of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties as well as the State Election Board, the Center for Election’s Systems, and its executive director Merle King.

“This far-fetched conjecture erodes public confidence in our elections without good cause. Putting plaintiffs’ proof to test will confirm Secretary Kemp and the State Election Board executed the election laws of our State reasonably and fairly,” said John Salter, an attorney with Barnes’ firm who has reviewed the case.

The Associated Press reported last week an elections server housed at the KSU Center for Election Systems was erased four days after the lawsuit was filed.

Kemp, who is running for governor, had previously blamed “the undeniable ineptitude” of the center, another defendant in the same case, for the wipe of the server.

Similar comments originally posted on Kemp’s Facebook page appear to have been deleted.

A report from Kemp’s office released Tuesday evening said the actions of IT technicians who erased the server “were consistent with standard IT practices and were not undertaken to delete evidence.”

Also in that report, investigators with the Secretary of State’s office cited communication issues between the Secretary of State’s office, the Attorney General’s office and the Center for Election Systems.

Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance and a plaintiff in the suit, said her group has heard conflicting information from the Attorney General’s office and the Secretary of State’s office in the case.

“We’re continuing to get different stories from the Attorney Generals’ office; they apparently are having a lot of miscommunications with their clients. Because they’re telling different stories. That virtually never happens between an attorney and their client,” Marks said.

Kemp’s office has said it first heard of the erasure of the server on Oct. 24. Marks said the Attorney General’s office first informed the plaintiffs of the erasure on Oct. 18.

“This should raise a lot of questions for the public in terms of the credibility of the elections systems,” said Marks, adding it raises questions about the credibility of the people who have been charged with ensuring the integrity of the voting system itself.

KSU has said the FBI copied the data on the server, and the Secretary of State’s report said “all current indications are that FBI has an image of the data that was on the server.” The FBI has not confirmed that.

Kemp and his office often cite an earlier ruling from a Fulton Superior Court judge who found the state’s sovereign immunity protected it from the claims in the lawsuit, but nonetheless performed an analysis that found those claims meritless.

Clarification: A previous quote from Marilyn Marks may have appeared to indicate individuals have been charged in the case because of an editing error. Nobody has been charged in this case. The quote was shortened for clarification. 

Correction: A previous version of the story cited an old version of the original complaint in the case. The suit no longer seeks to overturn the election results in the 6th District Congressional race.