Georgia voters return to the polls on Tuesday to elect a new elections chief in a state where critics accused Republicans this autumn of exploiting the position to suppress minority voting rights. Republican Brad Raffensperger and Democrat John Barrow were forced into a runoff in the secretary of state race after neither candidate secured a majority of the vote in the Nov. 6 general election as required by state law. The contest has showcased the partisan divisions still rankling the state after its hard-fought governor’s contest, which saw widespread reports of voting problems during an election overseen by the Republican candidate, Brian Kemp, then secretary of state.
Kemp’s narrow victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams, who sought to become the nation’s first female African-American governor, followed complaints of hours-long waits in heavily minority precincts, polling equipment failures and concerns about absentee ballots getting rejected under stringent rules that voters’ signatures exactly match the records on file.
“It is no secret that Georgia has been a hotbed of voter suppression over the last several years,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan organization that sued over the state’s voting issues. “Whether voters will get a reform-minded chief elections official who can put the state on a different path is key.”