ATLANTA — An already tight governor's race in Georgia devolved into new chaos Monday after the Republican candidate, who is also the state's chief election official, alleged with little evidence that Democrats sought to hack a voter database that will be used in Tuesday's elections.
Republican nominee Brian Kemp made the allegation just as reports emerged of a gaping vulnerability in a system that he controls as secretary of state.
An attorney for election-security advocates notified the FBI and Kemp's office on Saturday that a private citizen alerted him to what could be a major flaw in the database used to check in voters at the polls.
Independent computer scientists told The Associated Press that it enables anyone with access to an individual voter's personal information to alter that voter's record.
In response, Kemp asked the FBI to investigate the Democratic Party for trying to hack the system.
Kemp's office did not detail any Democratic acts, offering no evidence for beginning a probe of his partisan opposition days before an election.
Democrat Stacey Abrams told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday that she believes her opponent "cooked up the charge, because he realizes, once again, he left the personal information of six million voters vulnerable. This has happened twice before."
"We have nothing to do with this," she added in an interview on CBS "This Morning." ''When he gets caught, he blames everyone else."
Both programs said they offered Kemp an opportunity to appear as well, but he declined.
Polls suggest Kemp and Abrams are locked in a tight race in a contest that has taken on historic significance because of the potential of Abrams becoming the nation's first black female governor.
She's accused Kemp of using his post as secretary of state to make it harder for certain voters to cast ballots. Kemp counters that he's following state and federal law and that it's Abrams and her affiliated voting advocacy groups trying to help people, including noncitizens, cast ballots illegally.
The state Democratic Party called Kemp's accusation "a reckless and unethical ploy" and said he was using the FBI to support "false accusations."
The finger-pointing is the latest turn in a campaign whose final weeks have been dominated by charges of voter suppression and countercharges of attempted voter fraud.
In the voting integrity case, a federal judge last month endorsed the plaintiff's arguments that Kemp has been derelict in his management of the state election system and that it violates voters' constitutional rights with its lack of verifiability and reliability.
The atmosphere has left partisans and good-government advocates alike worrying about the possibility that the losing side will not accept Tuesday's results as legitimate.
According to AP interviews and records released by the Georgia Democratic Party, the lawyer for the election-security advocates, David Cross, notified both the FBI and Kemp's counsel Saturday morning that a citizen had alerted him to the flaw. But the citizen had separately informed the Georgia Democratic Party, whose voter protection director then sent an email to two computer security officials.
"If this report is accurate, it is a massive vulnerability," wrote the director, Sara Tindall Ghazal. Party officials provided the AP with the email, its recipients' names redacted.
Neither Cross nor the state party went public.
But reporters for the online news outlet WhoWhatWhy obtained a copy of the Ghazal email and the email that Democratic Party officials received from the private citizen who discovered the flaw, Richard Wright.