Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 4, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 4, 2015

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Today from 3-4 PM, I’ll be on GPB’s Political Rewind. I hope you’ll listen in, on 88.5 FM in Atlanta, or on GPB’s statewide radio network.

Georgia and American History

On December 5, 1765, the British ship Speedwell arrived in Savannah with supplies for implementing the Stamp Act.

On December 4, 1783, General George Washington told his officers he would resign his commission and return to his life at Mount Vernon.

The Battle of Waynesboro, Georgia was fought between Wheeler’s Confederate cavalry and Kilpatrick’s federal troops on December 4, 1864.

Georgia voters approved a new state Constitution, the seventh in state history, on December 5, 1877; also approved on the statewide ballot was to keep the state capital in Atlanta instead of returning it to Milledgeville. Notably, Section II, Paragraph V of the 1877 Constitution read:

“Lobbying is declared to be a crime, and the General Assembly shall enforce this provision by suitable penalties.”

Governor William Northen signed legislation placing on the statewide ballot a constitutional amendment to increase the number of Georgia Supreme Court Justices from 3 to 5 on December 4, 1893.

On December 4, 1932, a 12-foot tall statue of Tom Watson, former state legislator, Congressman, and United States Senator from Georgia, was placed on the State Capitol Grounds.

On December 5, 1933, the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Utah ratified the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, repealing Prohibition under the 18th Amendment. FDR ran for President in 1932 supporting repeal.

On December 5, 1941, ten state institutions of higher learning, including the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, lost their accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools due to political meddling by Gov. Eugene Talmadge.

On December 4, 1945, the United States Senate voted to approve full U.S. participation in the United Nations. Georgia’s Senators voted in favor.

On December 5, 2006, Republican Chuck Eaton was elected to the Public Service Commission in a runoff election against incumbent Democrat David Burgess.

On December 2, 2014, Republican Nancy Jester was elected to the DeKalb County Commission in a runoff election against independent Holmes Pyle by a 3-to-1 margin.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Brian Roslund, who ran as a Democrat for State Senate last year, shot himself while facing trial on felony charges.

Among the one count of racketeering and 27 counts of theft by taking, Roslund was accused of taking more than $11,000 from the Friends of Roosevelt’s Little White House in Warm Springs.

He was in court Monday in Meriwether County when the judge called the case for trial. All parties were instructed to return Tuesday to pick a jury.

Roslund qualified to run for the office in March 2014 while he was president of the Friends of Roosevelt’s Little White House in Warm Springs. He is accused of withdrawing cash 27 times from the charity’s bank account through the use of “counter checks.” The amount totaled more than $11,000 from the charity. Money was alleged to have paid for campaign-related expenses and a rental home in Senate District 29.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has announced free credit monitoring services for consumers in the wake of a data release that resulted in 12 CDs containing voters’ personal information that included Social Security and Driver’s License numbers.

After a major data breach exposed more than six million voters’ personal information, Georgia’s Secretary of State says the state will offer free credit monitoring and restoration to those affected.

Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp said the free credit monitoring should help reassure voters.

“I just felt like this is something that will give the voters a peace of mind,” Kemp said.

“I don’t believe the information’s out there. I’ve said that many times,” he said. “I do believe people that need to have that peace of mind if — for some crazy reason.  This is a good insurance policy.”

Additionally, the SOS office has hired Deloitte to audit the office’s data operations and recommend security upgrades.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is hiring the private auditing and consulting firm Deloitte to help ensure that the Secretary of State’s office never again releases confidential, personal voter information to the public.

“We have chosen Deloitte to do a complete, top-to-bottom review of our IT department,” Kemp said Tuesday. “They’re going to be analyzing all of our policies and procedures, and looking at our system security, as well.”

“Proper policies and procedures weren’t followed,” Kemp said Tuesday. Kemp traced the breach to a single employee who, Kemp said, is the one who didn’t follow the policies and procedures. Kemp fired him.

Kemp said he remains confident that his office retrieved all of the personal information before any identity thieves got their hands on it.

“What we’re doing now is doing a top to bottom review of those IT functions to make sure that this never happens again, to see if there are things that we should do differently in the future, and really just look at our whole system…. The people [with Deloitte] are really experienced at this, they have done this kind of work in other states…. I’m sure they’ll find some things that they like that we’ve done, there’ll probably be some things that we need to to a better job of, and we’ll embrace those and be better for it.”

Kemp expects the Deloitte audit will take several months to complete, at a cost of $395,000. He said the money will come from office reserves.

Kemp has already added additional security measures in the way the office protects personal voter information from exposure.

“We’ve implemented a triple-check, now, for this information going out. In the future there’ll be three people in the front office that will have to review and approve the information on the statewide voter registration list. A disc can only be changed at my direction, from me at the top. And then before it goes out it will have a three-person review. So we’ve already implemented that, this situation is not going to happen again. The problem is, those policies and procedures weren’t followed, and obviously, looking back, we should have had something like a triple-check in place. And we do now. And that’s something that we’ll learn from and be better for in the future.”

The Secretary of State’s Office is conducting its own investigation, “a full investigation of exactly what happened, document what our investigators were hearing from people [who received the discs] in the field, working on getting affidavits from people, working to see other ways that we can document and make sure that none of this information got out — and I’m sure of that. When we release that, you’ll be able to look at it and the public will be able to look at it, and be assured as well” that the data remained confidential.

Earlier in the week, Governor Deal had some questions about the data leak.

Deal’s most telling response came when he was asked whether he could be sure his credit was secure. As a registered voter, the governor’s personal information was on the file that was disclosed as well.

Here’s what he said:

“We don’t know the answer to that yet. You know, the 12 disks that were distributed, I think people need to start asking those people who received those disks: Did you transmit that information? They should have known, when they saw personal information on the disks, they should have known immediately this was not something appropriately in their hands. …

“I think the answers will be they acted appropriately and they did not disclose. And if that’s the case, to me that’s the end of the story. Because the damage could only have occurred if that information is put in the wrong hands.”

A few hours later, Deal took a softer approach toward Kemp. He said he’s still confident in the Secretary of State’s leadership and said flatly that he would not call for an independent inquiry.

“My situation is the same as other Georgians. Any time your personal information is compromised, that is a matter for concern. The real question that is at issue now is has it in fact be compromised. And that is what his further investigation will reveal.”

As one of the recipients of the CD that contained the data, and the person who brought the issue to the Secretary’s attention on November 13, I’m in a unique position to answer some of the questions, including those from Gov. Deal about the data release.

There are a couple of things about the database that kept me from knowing what was contained on it immediately upon receipt.

First, the data file is very large, generally around 1.5 GB and it’s a plain text file with no headers. It’s a fixed-length format that requires the recipient to parse each line of data into meaningful fields. Each record is approximately 220 characters and contains 60 fields of data that are delimited with the pipe character. We’re talking 1.3 billion characters. It’s massive for anybody working with consumer grade software and hardware. It won’t open in Microsoft Excel.

In fact, when I do get a new data file, the process of loading the file and parsing each record into its constituent fields is something that runs overnight so it doesn’t interfere with my other work.

So, if you left a copy of the data file on the table at Starbucks and walked away, most people curious enough to put it in their cd-drive wouldn’t be able to open the file and wouldn’t know how.

Then you’re faced with the fact that the fields aren’t labeled and there is no key available. Unless you’ve been working with the data file for years, you would have a difficult time figuring out which fields contain what data.

In my case, the work of parsing the file is handled by a script that runs automatically and it based on the last known format of the data. The last known format doesn’t include the three extra data fields that in this case contained SSN, DL#, and date of birth. Some scripts would ignore the additional fields and some would throw an error. It’s probably 50/50 whether you get to this point and realize there’s extra information in there.

Because none of the fields are labeled and there is no key to the file, the extra data simply looks like three strings of numbers – two of them are nine digits and one is eight digits.

I only know one social security number. If I ask my wife, she’ll usually tell me hers if I’m filling out paperwork or something. But when I saw three strings of digits, I had no idea what they were. I could tell that the DOB matched another DOB field but that was it.

Once I get the data loaded and parsed, I usually check my own record to see if everything’s correct. Only at this point would I see what the additional data represents. So there are substantial technical barriers to anyone getting one of these CDs and getting to where they can read other people’s personal information.

In this case, I didn’t notice a problem until Brian Keahl of Political Data Systems, whom I asked for a hand with the data, pointed it out to me. I checked my own information and confirmed to myself that the additional data was what Brian thought it was.

Additionally, I received the CDs in mid-October, about two weeks from the elections in which I had clients on the ballot. I didn’t even load the disc at that point, because it wouldn’t be useful in the November elections and doing so would have slowed down everything else I was doing. I suspect most of the CD recipients were in this boat. I set it aside until after the election and only then did I see what was on the file. Once I was certain what the file contained, I set up a phone call with the Secretary of State and told him. I then arranged for the return of the CD in question and destroyed the copy on my external hard drive.

Peach State Presidential Politics

Florida Senator and Republican Presidential candidate Marco Rubio was in Atlanta on Wednesday for a private fundraising reception in historic Brookhaven.

Carly Fiorina will be in Atlanta at the Georgia Tech Student Success Center, 225 North Ave NW, Atlanta, GA 30313 on Tuesday, December 8, 2015 from 3-5:00 PM. Click here for free tickets.

Dr. Ben Carson is also in Atlanta on Tuesday, for a private fundraising reception from 6-7 PM followed by a free rally from 7:30 to 9 PM at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta, GA 30339. Click here for free tickets to the rally or click here to pay $500 for a photo op.

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