Election Day was three weeks in the past, and Kenneth Royal, a 37-year-old salesman who supported Stacey Abrams for governor, could have spent the chilly Wednesday evening at home, putting politics out of his mind. Instead, Mr. Royal, stung by Ms. Abrams’s narrow defeat, was manning a phone bank, trying to persuade fellow Democrats that the runoff election next week for Georgia secretary of state was not some obscure postscript, but a crucial battle over minority voting rights. The issue of whether the state’s elections are managed fairly grabbed hold of Georgia in the midterms, and has not let go. Brian Kemp, the Republican who ran for governor while still serving as secretary of state, oversaw voting roll purges, registration suspensions, and an Election Day rife with problems — all of which, critics said, were meant to suppress minority voting. Like many Democrats around the country, Mr. Royal believes that those tactics worked, and essentially cheated Ms. Abrams out of victory in an excruciatingly close race. And he sees the coming race for secretary of state as a way to set some things right.
“Was it stolen? I think it was,” Mr. Royal said of the election. “What I’m thankful for is that we’ve been able to shed light on what’s been going on for a long time.”
Mr. Kemp and other Republicans brush aside such views as the complaints of sore losers, and say their policies protect the integrity of elections. Mr. Kemp will be sworn into office in January.
Democrats preparing for the runoff, meanwhile, may find it difficult to rekindle the passion that animated Georgian voters for the general election on Nov. 6, when some 3.9 million ballots were cast.
Even so, the party hopes to add Georgia to a string of victories in secretary of state contests this year, including three states — Arizona, Colorado and Michigan — where Democrats flipped control of the office, with promises to expand the franchise and protect voter rights.
Democrats regard those gains as crucial to their broader effort to reverse what they see as an erosion of voting rights across the country at the hands of Republicans.