As Georgia’s next top elections official, Republican Brad Raffensperger promises to defend broad voter-registration cancellations and strict voting requirements that have fueled accusations of widespread disenfranchisement. Raffensperger, the winner of Tuesday’s runoff for Georgia secretary of state, will continue the work of his predecessor, Gov.-elect Brian Kemp. Democrat John Barrow conceded to Raffensperger on Wednesday. While voter fraud is rare in Georgia, Raffensperger emphasizes election integrity over easy access to voting. He plans to cancel registrations of inactive voters, as Kemp did when more than 1.4 million people were removed from the state’s voting list starting in 2012.
Secretary of State
The Republican-led Michigan senate has voted to bar the incoming Democratic secretary of state from enforcing campaign finance law, one day after Republicans in Wisconsin similarly took action to restrict the power of newly elected Democrats. The 25-11 vote, which fell along party lines, was the latest salvo by Republicans seeking to capitalize on a lame-duck session before handing control of the state’s top elected offices to Democrats. The measure is among several that opponents say ignore voters who spoke loudly at the ballot box during the midterm elections last month, sweeping Democrats into the roles of governor, attorney general and secretary of state in Michigan. The GOP-controlled state legislature also rammed through bills to gut the $12-an-hour minimum wage and paid sick leave laws, which are pending approval from the outgoing Republican governor, Rick Snyder. Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is poised to take over the governor’s mansion on 1 January and would veto the controversial Republican legislation.
In a day of high drama at the State House, Bill Gardner, the nation’s longest serving Secretary of State, held off a formidable challenge by former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, eking out a four-vote win to another two-year term. Gardner, the underdog in this race for the first time in decades, pulled off a remarkable upset, beating Van Ostern on the second ballot of voting by House and Senate members, 209-205. First elected in 1976, Gardner told the New Hampshire Union Leader he was hoping for one more term, bringing him to the 100th anniversary of the state’s First-in-the-Nation Primary in 2020.
Senate Republicans are advancing a controversial plan that would strip incoming Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson of the power to enforce the state’s campaign finance laws. The Senate Elections Committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would instead shift campaign finance oversight to a bipartisan committee. The six members would be picked from a list submitted by each of the two major political parties. The legislation is among a slew of lame-duck power play proposals by legislative Republicans, who will retain their majorities next year in the House and Senate as Democrats take over top statewide offices, including the secretary of state post that has been occupied by a Republican the past 24 years.
The Nov. 6 midterms, and the prolonged vote count afterward, tested Georgian’s trust in how the state’s elections are administered. Multiple lawsuits were filed, and Democrats and Republicans, without evidence, accused each other of trying to steal the election. Now, less than two weeks after the statewide results were certified, voters will pick a new Secretary of State, Georgia’s top election official. Neither Republican Brad Raffensperger nor Democrat John Barrow could secure a majority of votes in the Nov. 6 general election, pushing their race to a runoff on Tuesday. The winner of the runoff will replace interim Secretary of State, Robyn Crittenden, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal when former Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp resigned.
As a battle over the fairness of Georgia’s recent election for governor moves from the political arena to the courtroom, two men are locked in a runoff race, with far less fanfare, to oversee the future of the state’s election apparatus. Republican state Rep. Brad Raffensperger faces former Democratic congressman John Barrow in a Dec. 4 runoff for Georgia secretary of state after neither garnered the more than 50 percent of votes required to win outright on Nov. 6. Official results show Raffensperger led by about 16,000 votes out of over 3.8 million cast. Raffensperger has support from President Donald Trump, who earlier this week endorsed him via Twitter. Barrow, meanwhile, has the endorsement of some top state Democrats, including former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. At stake in their runoff is the ability to reshape the state’s election system, which came under a national microscope during the recent race for governor between Abrams and Republican Secretary of State — now governor-elect — Brian Kemp.
Georgia: Voting rights at stake in runoff for Georgia elections chief | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
After an election marred by voting problems, Georgia voters will decide in Tuesday’s runoff who should fix them. One candidate for Georgia secretary of state wants to tackle voter purges, long lines and voting rights. His opponent prefers leaving most elections management to county officials and improving training. Democrat John Barrow, a former U.S. congressman, said he’d seek both voting fairness and accuracy if elected as the state’s top elections official. He faces Republican Brad Raffensperger, an engineering firm CEO who said he would ensure only U.S. citizens can vote and mostly maintain Georgia’s current election process.
When Ohio State elections law professor Daniel Tokaji tells colleagues from other parts of the world about how the United States picks election officials, he says they’re stunned. “And not in the good way,” says Tokaji. That’s because in a large portion of the U.S., elections are supervised by an official who is openly aligned with a political party. It’s a system of election administration that’s routinely come under scrutiny over the past two decades, and did again in this year’s midterms especially in Georgia, Florida and Kansas. “Just about everyone recognizes that it’s inherently unfair for the umpire in our elections to be also a player on one of the two teams, Democrat or Republican,” Tokaji says.
Secretary of State Bill Gardner has had a decadeslong run as the legendary, hard-nosed guardian of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. But he may not make it through the Trump era. Gardner, a fixture in presidential politics after more than 40 years in office, may be on the verge of a bitter ouster from his job after supporting stricter voter eligibility requirements and participating in President Donald Trump’s ill-fated voter fraud commission. Though he has traditionally garnered support from both Republicans and Democrats — the Legislature selects the state’s secretary of state every two years — New Hampshire House Democrats overwhelmingly threw their support to a rival Democrat, Colin Van Ostern, in a preliminary caucus vote recently.
Georgia: Brian Kemp under scrutiny after announcing probe of Democrats | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Secretary of State Brian Kemp has had two roles this year: Running Georgia’s elections and running for governor of the state. Democrats, including former President Jimmy Carter, have called on him to step aside, warning repeatedly of potential conflicts of interest. Kemp is now facing renewed scrutiny after his office announced Sunday — without providing evidence and doing so just hours before Election Day — that it is investigating the Georgia Democratic Party for an alleged hack of the state’s voter registration system. The move to publicly disclose the probe appeared to break with tradition in the office, which oversees voting integrity, as it differed from how Kemp’s team handled an earlier cyber breach at Kennesaw State University. Edgardo Cortés, Virginia’s former elections commissioner, called Sunday’s announcement “bizarre” and said the timing of it is “problematic,” adding he wouldn’t have done it had he been in Kemp’s shoes. Such public statements, Cortés said, could depress voter turnout by making people question the reliability of the election system.