While President Donald Trump made claims this week of 3-5 million illegal votes cast in the last election David Dove, the chief of staff to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, said as far as he knew, nothing like that happened here.
“We haven’t had illegal votes in Georgia,” Dove said, answering questions from members of the state House of Representatives Science & Technology Committee. He did note, however, there were five instances of double-voting in Fulton County, which were being investigated, but likely due to the fact poll workers didn’t properly mark that those people had indeed voted the first time.
Dove appeared before the committee Tuesday to present what was known of an alleged attempt to breach the state’s voter database, and efforts made by the federal Department of Homeland Security to make state election systems safer.
“Over the last eight months, in a nutshell, the Secretary of State has been involved in discussions with the Department of Homeland Security around the idea of designating the elections systems in our country as a sector of critical infrastructure,” Dove said. “In addition to that, we have also had an attempted — we had an attack. It seemed to be an attempted hack of our office’s servers. And, that was not successful, but it does provide some information I think would be pertinent to the committee today.”
Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, and Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, sit on the committee.
Dove said the DHS told the Secretary of State’s Office that the alleged hack came from an old copy of Microsoft Word opened by a contract employee of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick. The DHS, Dove said, was unable to replicate the scenario in which the file led to an “open option call” against the SOS firewall, scanning for ports. Dove said DHS staff were also unable to explain how exactly it happened.
Dove said there were around nine attacks logged against the SOS firewall, occurring around significant days during the last election cycle, and one of which took place on a Sunday afternoon. He noted that since each state has a different system and different protection procedures, it makes hacking into the American election system as a whole a tough proposition. But with DHS designating state election systems as “critical infrastructure,” that allows for more standardization and as a result creates a situation harder to defend.
Dove pointed out that U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, former U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic secretaries of state from Connecticut, Maine and Vermont joined Kemp and other Republicans in opposing the DHS’ critical infrastructure designation. With Johnson issuing the designation regardless Jan. 6, Dove said they anticipate Trump rescinding the rule in the next days or weeks.
“As citizens of this country … we want our election systems secure,” Jones said during questioning of Dove. “But as citizens of Georgia and members of the Georgia General Assembly, our immediate concern is are our election systems safe? You made a statement — except for those few isolated incidents that you cited, you unequivocally stated that Georgia’s election system was not hacked, was not impugned, was not (degraded) in any manner. Can you explain a little, briefly, why you are so confident in making those statements about the integrity of the Georgia election system?”
Dove said in work and conversations with the state’s vendors, active monitoring of the voter registration database shows no intrusions into that system. He noted vendors also search the “dark web” to see if secured data made it into those venues, and thus far it has not. Also, Dove said the voting machines themselves have significant levels of physical protections and remain under tight security.
The DHS Office of Inspector General is investigating the matter and has requested documents from the Secretary of State’s office in regard to the inquiry.