election security

Wrong Kind of Security: Georgia Makes It Hard for Overseas Voters to Register Online

Brian Kemp has some questions to answer. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

The office of Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee, is famous for two things this year when it comes to election administration. The first is their boss’ determination to combat the phantom menace of voter fraud, even if that means disenfranchising eligible voters in large numbers. The second is Kemp and company’s breezy dismissal of multiple alarms about the security of Georgia’s unique and archaic all-electronic, no-paper-trail voting system.

So it’s especially telling that the latest decision from the masters of the ballot box in Georgia appears to adopt a tardy and misplaced security measure that happens to make it harder for eligible voters to vote. BuzzFeed has the story:

The state of Georgia has blocked all foreign internet traffic to its online voter registration site, BuzzFeed News has learned, a move that would do little to deter hackers but blocks absentee voters ….

The decision has outraged technologists and voting groups. In theory, it’s meant as a security measure, based on the idea that a person visiting the site is more likely to be a foreign hacker. But in practice, it has the opposite effect: Georgians abroad who don’t know how to reroute their internet traffic with tools like virtual private networks (VPNs) or Tor will be prevented from registering to vote.

Perfectly eligible voters who happen to reside overseas, in other words, will find themselves blocked from registering unless they figure out workarounds or navigate the Georgia Secretary of State’s contact system to get technical assistance. Most will simply give up. But real hackers won’t have a problem with it.

“This won’t really do anything to dissuade a hacker. It will only turn away real voters,” said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, president of the US Vote Foundation, a nonprofit that helps Americans vote abroad. 

Given the recent brouhaha over efforts to shut down polling places in a mainly black Georgia county, which some critics traced to advice from Kemp’s office, you’d figure the election administrators in that state would be trying to play error-free baseball for a while. But bad habits sometimes die a slow death.

Wrong Kind of Security: Georgia Obstructs Overseas Voting