Georgia Dems Sue Over 2018 Cyber-Crime Accusations

People cast ballots at Jim Miller Park in Marietta, Ga., for the 2018 midterm election. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

(CN) — As Georgians cast their ballots and turned their attention to the results of a nail-biter 2020 presidential race Tuesday, the Georgia Democratic Party filed a lawsuit repudiating accusations leveled against it during the 2018 midterm election. 

The Georgia Democratic Party said Republican Governor Brian Kemp, then secretary of state, intimidated and politically retaliated against the party when his spokesperson announced his office was investigating it for “possible cyber crimes” hours before the polls were set to open in 2018, according to the 37-page complaint filed in federal court.

The complaint states the secretary of state’s office made its accusations “without an iota of evidence.”

“Defendants’ knowingly false accusations served to intimidate, threaten and deter the Democratic Party of Georgia’s member-voters, and constituted retaliation against the Party for its support and advocacy for Democratic candidates,” the complaint says. “To protect the integrity of future elections in Georgia, Defendants must be held accountable for their violations of federal law.”

The 2018 midterm elections in the Peach State pushed issues of election integrity and security to the forefront. Democrat Stacey Abrams, a voting rights activist, ran against Kemp, who refused to recuse himself from overseeing the election that placed him in the governor’s mansion. Georgia relied on its old paperless system for one last major election.

And people were finding security flaws.

Days before the 2018 election, a Georgia resident discovered the secretary of state’s website allowed anyone to download personally identifiable information of any Georgia voter, such as the last four digits of their Social Security number, according to the complaint. The resident reached out to an attorney and several groups learned of the issue, including the Georgia Democratic Party.

The secretary of state’s office and Kemp’s campaign both accused the party of acting improperly. The day after the accusations flew, the problems remained in Georgia’s system, according to the complaint.

“But Defendants accused only the Democratic Party of Georgia of cyber crimes, even though an attorney for Kemp himself was aware of the vulnerabilities at about the same time or before the Democratic Party of Georgia was even informed,” the complaint says.

When the Georgia Bureau of Investigation looked into the matter, they cleared the resident who originally discovered the flaw, according to the complaint, and did not investigate the Democratic Party because the accusations were baseless.

But statements announcing the investigation into the Democratic Party are still up on the secretary of state’s website.

The complaint says Democrats had to spend time responding to the accusations and “caused Plaintiff and its members to fear that future urging or aiding persons to vote will subject them to further false accusations, false prosecution, harassment, threats to safety, or economic hardship.”

The suit, signed by attorney Manoj Varghese of the Atlanta firm Bondurant, Mixon and Elmore, asks for less than $20 in damages and the removal of the announcements from the website of the secretary of state’s office.

Spokespersons for Kemp and the Georgia Democratic Party did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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