Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican administering his own gubernatorial election against Stacey Abrams (D), has engaged in a series of efforts that are awfully tough to defend. He's purged residents from the state's voter rolls. He's closed polling places. He's frozen voter-registration forms. He's even ignored warnings from the Department of Homeland Security about security threats.
But all things considered, yesterday's news showed Kemp reaching a new low.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor, said Sunday that he was investigating the state Democratic Party for an attempted hack of the voter registration system -- a claim met with a swift response from Democrats charging him with a shameless "political stunt" two days before Election Day.Kemp, who is in a neck-and-neck race with Stacey Abrams, alleged that the state Democratic Party made a "failed attempt to hack the state's voter registration system" and announced that his office was opening an investigation into the party. Kemp said his office alerted the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, but he offered no evidence to back up his allegation.
Rick Hasen, an election-law expert at UC Irvine, wrote a piece for Slate describing Kemp's move as "perhaps the most outrageous example of election administration partisanship in the modern era."
Hasen added, "[W]hat Kemp has done now goes beyond the pale. He's accused his opponents of election tampering without evidence on the eve of the election, and plastered the incendiary charge on an official state website in the days before his office will administer that election. This is some banana republic stuff."
Given what we know, that assessment is more than fair. There is literally nothing to suggest Georgia Democrats tried to "hack" the state's voter registration system. In fact, all available evidence suggests nothing of any significance happened at all.
The only apparent wrongdoing in this story comes by way of Kemp himself -- since he's the one who seems to be abusing his office on the eve of a statewide election, subverting the electoral process to suit his own partisan purposes.
Making matters slightly worse is Kemp's recent history. It was, after all, just two years ago when the Georgia Republican accused the Department of Homeland Security of an "unsuccessful attempt to penetrate the Georgia Secretary of State's firewall." Months later, following an investigation, we learned that Kemp has no idea what he was talking about.
I won't pretend to know what'll happen in this closely watched gubernatorial race, which could go either way. But I do know if Kemp were confident of success, he wouldn't have launched this gambit yesterday.
I also know that if Kemp prevails after all of these antics, he shouldn't be surprised if a cloud of illegitimacy hangs over him for four years.