Some Voters Upset After Elections Website Down For Nearly 30 Hours

Last weekend, Georgia’s elections website was offline for nearly 30 hours for maintenance.

Screenshot of the Georgia SOS wesbite

People trying to register Georgia voters said they were upset after the state election’s website went down for 26 hours from Aug. 4-6.

The secretary of state’s office said workers were doing maintenance for “security purposes.”

Some computer information professionals, like Democratic State Rep. Jonathan Wallace of House District 119, expressed concern. Wallace is vice president of engineering for Softgiving, an Atlanta-based financial technology company.

“Computers are so fast these days that it’s typically indicative of either poor planning or lack of resources or something has gone terribly wrong during an outage,” Wallace said. “We will plan outages on the order of an hour and the site may be unavailable for seconds to minutes. In worst case scenarios I’ve seen outages as long as four hours. To have scheduled maintenance of 30 hours with today’s technology is very worrisome. It raises a bunch of questions as to why it would have to be that extensive and makes me a little nervous.”

Wallace said in addition to elections officials, Georgia voters should have been given advanced notice.

Software Updates    

But other computer information experts say there may be good explanations for why it took so long, such as software updates and testing.

Humayun Zafar is associate professor of information security and assurance at Kennesaw State University.

“Maybe they want to bring those services online and then make sure that everything is operational before you open up the world right there and grant everyone access to make sure that you know things are working the way they’re supposed to and that is pretty standard policy in that scenario. Make sure that the backups are taken care of, access issues are taken care of,” Zafar said.

“So they might actually have a checklist that they going through to ensure that whatever they are doing is basically following a set of best practices and considering where we’re at, you know politically that’s a pretty smart idea.”

Richard Welke is the former chair of the Computer Information Systems department at Georgia State University.

“God knows one needs to be able to protect the voter registration system and so whatever time it takes them to make these changes and tests, that’s time well spent,” Welke said. “I wish they would do it more often. I mean voter registration systems are frankly under attack by agents from a country yet to be specifically determined. And many of the states have well known vulnerabilities that have been identified by the feds. I would imagine that [Georgia] has vulnerabilities so I suspect they’re trying to clean things up before the midterm elections take place.”

The statewide voter registration database, My Voter Page, and online voter registration system were scheduled for routine maintenance starting at 11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3 through 6 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 5. The maintenance was completed at 1 a.m. Monday.

“We are committed to secure, accessible, and fair elections for all Georgia voters. It is imperative that we keep these resources up-to-date for security purposes,” said Georgia Secretary of State spokesperson Candice Broce.