Pop the hood of Georgia’s elections system and you’ll notice a lot of old, rusted parts, begging to be repaired or replaced. But if you ask Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee in this year’s gubernatorial contest, for a diagnosis, he’ll likely assure you that, despite a few loose screws and some oxidation on the battery, the eight-cylinder power propelling this motor has no problem carrying you from Point A to Point B—or running an election. Kemp, who elbowed Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle out of the race in the July 24 runoff election, is the overseer of Georgia’s elections engine, which will likely count well over 2 million votes to determine if he or his Democratic rival, Stacey Abrams, will claim the state’s top job after the November 6 general election. Some—including the Democratic Party of Georgia—take issue with the fact that Kemp oversees the procedures that are used to elect Georgia’s public officials, calling on him to resign from his elections czar post or recuse himself from involvement in the vote tabulation and certification. (Congresswoman Karen Handel stepped down when she held the job in 2010 to run for governor, but Cathy Cox held on to her position when she ran for governor in the 2006 Democratic primary.) Kemp has reportedly said he has no intention of resigning.
“The same people that are criticizing me on [elections integrity], if I resign, they’d criticize me for leaving the office, saying, ‘You’re scared and running because elections are not secure,’” Kemp said, according to WABE. “It’s just a political argument.”
One of the most controversial questions regarding the governor’s race and others on Georgia’s November ballot: How tight is Georgia’s elections system security? The question is polarizing. The answer is complicated and, in some ways, up for interpretation—and litigation. And how exactly to reform a system that Congresspeople and activist groups, such as Georgia Votes Paper and the Coalition for Good Governance, have deemed problematic is subject to a tangled debate.