A Georgia lawsuit mounted by voters urging for an overhaul of the state's elections system has encountered a roadblock. A computer server that was deemed crucial evidence in the lawsuit has been wiped clean for unclear purposes, prompting plaintiffs in the case to cry foul.
On Oct. 26, emails obtained through an open records request disclosed that the data of a computer server at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University was destroyed on July 7, The Associated Press reports.
The university's center runs Georgia's entire state election system. The server contained electronic poll book data and was deemed crucial evidence in an ongoing lawsuit against the state's election officials.
It is unclear who ordered the server to be wiped; Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp has denied any involvement in the decision and Center for Elections Systems Director Michael Barnes referred inquiries from the media to the university's press office, which declined to comment.
On July 5, the government watchdog group Coalition for Good Governance and half a dozen Georgia voters filed a lawsuit against the state's election officials, alleging that the Georgia's election system was woefully outdated and vulnerable to hacking, according to WGCL.
The plaintiffs say the results of a June 2017 special election runoff for Georgia's Sixth District might have been tampered with and called for a new election. They also called for Georgia's election officials to update the state's voting system, which has used the same touch-screen models since 2002.
In August 2016, former cybersecurity researcher Logan Lamb discovered that the Kennesaw server could easily be hacked. While exploring the center's website, Lamb discovered he could easily breach the website and acquire the server's data, which contained all of Georgia's voter registration information, Politico reports.
"You could just go to the root of where they were hosting all the files and just download everything without logging in," Lamb said.
Lamb notified the center about its security vulnerabilities, but Georgia election officials reportedly dismissed his concerns. Lamb believed hackers may have already compromised the election system and that election ballots could be altered.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit consider the Kennesaw server to be crucial evidence. They had wanted an independent investigator to examine the server to determine whether the Georgia election systems had been breached or were vulnerable to tampering, a now impossible task after the data wipe.
Computer scientist Richard DeMillo of Georgia Tech noted that the server wipe effectively "forestalls any forensic investigation at all." DeMillo also asserted that the memory wipe was not an accident.
"People who have nothing to hide don't behave this way," DeMillo said, according to AP.
Coalition for Good Governance Executive Director Marilyn Marks voiced outrage over the memory wipe.
"I don't think you could find a voting systems expert who would think the deletion of the server data was anything less than insidious and highly suspicious," Marks said.