Secretary Of State’s Office: Elections Server Wipe Followed Standard Practice

This 2016 photo shows the screen of an electronic voting machine during testing at the Kennesaw State University Center for Elections Systems. A computer server vital to a lawsuit was wiped clean. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office said Tuesday that the server wipe followed standard IT practices.

Alex Sanz / Associated Press file

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office released a two-page investigative report Tuesday into the erasure of an elections server days after a lawsuit was filed questioning the integrity of the state’s elections system.

It was housed at the Kennesaw State University Center for Election Systems, which contracts with the state.

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The report said the actions of IT technicians who erased the server “were consistent with standard IT practices and were not undertaken to delete evidence.”

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican running for governor, had previously blamed “the undeniable ineptitude” of the Center for Election Systems for the wipe of the server.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Georgia have called for an independent investigation into the incident.

The Secretary of State’s report said KSU acted on its own in deleting information on the server.

“The concern that data was lost is unfounded,” it said. “The narrative asserted in the media that the data was nefariously deleted and is no longer available is completely false and without merit.”

The report also cited communication issues between the Secretary of State’s office, the Attorney General’s office and the Center for Election Systems.

“In an October 6, 2017 email, the Attorney General’s office notified counsel for the other parties in the litigation that data had been deleted from servers at KSU. Our office was not alerted to this potential issue until the media began to ask questions about it on October 24, 2017,” the report said, advising more timely communication between the Attorney General’s office and the Center for Election Systems.

The Secretary of State’s office says it plans to absorb the responsibilities of the Center for Election Systems by the end of 2017.

Before the 2016 election, a cybersecurity researcher discovered registration records for 6.7 million Georgia voters, passwords for election workers and more sensitive information on the server, according to a Politico report. That data was all easily accessible through the Center for Election’s system website.

After the cybersecurity researcher accessed the server, the FBI opened an investigation and eventually took possession of the server on March 3, according to the Secretary of State report.

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.

The Associated Press first reported last week the server was erased on July 7.