Brian Kemp, Chris Carr, and a Records Management Perspective on that “Nothingburger” Server Wipe

Depending on what news source you read, you might believe that Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr abruptly quit Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s defense in the lawsuit both the SOS’s office and Kennesaw State University are facing over the security of Georgia’s election systems. In some stories, it sounded quite ominous, like Carr had dumped the case because he felt Kemp deserved to lose.

Of course the state deserves to lose the case, but that’s another story. Carr hasn’t waved the white flag. In truth, he’s saddled himself with the harder client. The AG’s office is citing a conflict in representing both the SOS and KSU, so it has outsourced the work of representing the SOS’s office to the law firm of former Governor Roy Barnes. This is not unusual for the AG’s office when there is a possibility that a conflict exists between two state entities. So, what happened?

The most likely cause of the conflict stemmed from a statement from Kemp last Friday, calling a server wipe carried out by KSU “inexcusable conduct or gross incompetence.” He has since reversed course and called the outrage over the wipe “a tasteless nothingburger. Clearly, with Kemp’s statement, there is a division there that would have caused the AG’s office to balk at representing both jointly.

Putting on my records management cap, I believe Kemp is right specifically about the data wipe, and it’s because the server was copied and the data retained before the server was re-purposed. Here are the University System of Georgia Records Retention Schedules that cover institutional research records. Note that data must be stored for three years or permanently, depending on whether this is a finalized report or not. There is nothing in the schedule stating that data must be retained in its original format.

Good thing. Servers crash all the time.

Archivists have pretty much settled on the fact that born-digital records (which this would be) have no one original. Rather, every copy is exactly the same, giving them all equal intrinsic value. This is a really, really geeky professional thing to discuss on, but I believe it’s crucial to understanding why I think the server wipe is a distraction from the larger case of whether or not our voting machines are trustworthy, which y’all may remember, I do not.


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