Voter data protection at the forefront of Secretary of State race

Voting security and safety remain top priorities for many voters.
Voting security and safety remain top priorities for many voters.

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Concern is ramping up about Georgia voting security. Last year’s leak of personal voter registration data has many Georgians on edge. The Muscogee County Elections Office admits they’ve heard complaints over voter fraud and hackers gaining access to voter registration data. The office says no one in the county had their information compromised.

Still, voter safety and security remains a top priority for many Georgians.

“It is dangerous, because people can get your information and ruin your life,” Georgia voter Roy Wyche said. “As long as there’s something right to help the people, I’m going to vote. I’m going to always vote. I’m not going to miss it.”

Wyche makes sure to vote in every election, despite being one of about 6.5 million Georgians to have their voter registration data leaked last summer. He says neither last summer’s leak nor potential hacks will discourage him from voting.

Georgia State Senator Josh McKoon (R-GA, Columbus) is running for Secretary of State in 2018. The GOP candidate says voters are sounding off about safety and security at the polls.

“In this era of identity theft, we have to be very careful about what information is even on the state database that could be hacked, even if we’ve got it secured and not in a public file,” McKoon told News 3. “Their personal information, making sure that’s not accidentally shared or breached by hackers. That’s something I think people are concerned about. And then making sure we have confidence in the results of our election process.”

McKoon is calling for a complete audit of the Secretary of State’s Office. He also wants to update what he believes to be outdated voting equipment, as well as hire more investigators to look into rumored or reported hacks. McKoon believes these measures would help to restore confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.

George Buzz Brockway III, Rakeim Hadley, David Isle, and Bradford Raffensperger have also declared their intent to run for Secretary of State.

Muscogee County Board of Elections director Nancy Boren says voters locally should not worry about their vote not counting. She says voting machines and voter data is vetted thoroughly. She adds poll workers are trained on security before every election, and seal numbers on every device are verified. On election day, the consolidation process makes sure each vote is accounted for.

“We have heard a few complaints from people feeling like there’s Russian influence,” Boren said. “But we have not heard specific complaints of data being released in our department.”

Boren says the next Secretary of State must deal with several angry voters who might be unaware of the difference in personal data and election day information.

“So I think there need to be distinctions between what is voter registration data, and what could’ve been linked and what happened to that voter registration data, and then actual election day information,” Boren said.

Boren adds a voter’s name, address, year of birth and how they voted in a primary are already public record.

In response to the leak of voter registration data, the Secretary of State’s Office responded:

Thank you for reaching out to share your concerns. We are not sharing sensitive voter information with the commission. We are only providing the publicly available voter list. Legally, the public voter list is available to any member of the public who requests it. The public list does not contain a registered voter’s driver’s license number, social security number, month and day of birth, site of voter registration, phone number, or email address. Georgia also does not ask for a voter’s political affiliation when he or she registers to vote, so we do not have that information to share. Additionally, Georgia law protects ballot secrecy. Although voter history is public record, the only information in voter history is whether a person voted in an election. In primary elections, the political party primary in which a voter votes is recorded and public. At no point is it ever possible to determine any specific vote cast by a voter in any election. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to let me know. I am more than happy to help.

Sincerely,

Brian Kemp, Georgia Secretary of State

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