Ga. elections chief plans changes after security breach

ATLANTA — Georgia’s top elections official stood out by refusing help from the Department of Homeland Security last August amid national concerns about the integrity of U.S. elections.

Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp called it an attempted federal takeover and insisted his office was already protecting Georgia’s vote from hackers.

That stance earned him national media coverage ahead of his campaign for governor. But Kemp’s assurances threatened to become a liability after new details emerged last month about major security mistakes at the center managing Georgia’s election technology. It turns out that the contractor left critical data wide open for months on the internet, and that for the second time under Kemp’s tenure, the personal information of every Georgia voter was exposed.

With his critics demanding accountability, Kemp announced Friday that he plans to bring the center’s operations in-house within a year. His brief statement made no mention of the security flaws, saying “the ever-changing landscape of technology demands that we change with it.”

Georgia effectively outsourced management of the touch-screen voting machines it adopted statewide 15 years ago to the center, which earned $792,000 in its most recent annual contract.

The work has been all-encompassing, from designing ballots to creating memory cards with lists of registered voters for each county to testing and certifying each piece of equipment after repairs. The new, $815,000 contract Kemp announced Friday calls for moving that work to the Secretary of State’s office by June 30, 2018.