Georgia Secretary of State runoff marred by allegations of continued voter suppression

Thousands of people still can't vote in Georgia

By Matthew Rozsa

Published December 4, 2018 2:40PM (EST)

A line forms outside a polling site on election day in Atlanta, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP/David Goldman)
A line forms outside a polling site on election day in Atlanta, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP/David Goldman)

Georgia is a holding a statewide runoff election today — and just like with last month's general election, many Georgians won't be able to vote

While Democrat Stacey Abrams was unable to deprive Republican Brian Kemp of a majority in last month's election for Georgia governor — and, as a result, did not force a runoff in a race marred by allegations of voter suppression even before it kicked off — the runoff race for Georgia Secretary of State is seen as a proxy battle.

The race for Secretary of State is being held between Republican Brad Raffensperger, a state representative who received 49.09 percent of the vote in the November election, and former Democratic Rep. John Barrow, who received 48.67 percent. It is worth noting that Brian Kemp currently serves as Georgia Secretary of State, and was widely accused of using his power in that office to suppress access to the ballot box for thousands of voters.

"As we know, whoever controls the Secretary of State's office, controls who gets to vote, how you get to vote, whose ballots get counted, etc., which Kemp used to great effect to make himself governor," veteran journalist Greg Palast told Salon. He also explained that Raffensperger is "saying he's for tougher ID laws. Brian Kemp, after all the years in office, didn't find one person faking someone else's ID, but nevertheless we know that they're using these racist, Jim Crow tactics. Because who doesn't have driver's licenses? Guess what, people who don't have cars. In other words poor people, students, urban dwellers, black folks."

He also depicted the Democrat, Barrow, as someone whose moderate background could make him a more palatable fit for Georgia's conservative voters.

"The Democrat, interestingly, is a former congressman. I'd say, why would a former congressman take a job like Secretary of State? Well, he's looking at Kemp. Secretary of State can make you a governor or a senator. And that's John Barrow," Palast explained, describing how Barrow is less progressive than Abrams but nevertheless has been outspoken in his opposition to the purging of 340,134 voters that occurred under Kemp.

"Today there are two absolutely vital elections in Georgia," veteran journalist Greg Palast told Salon. "The runoff for Secretary of State and the runoff for the public service commission, one of those offices you don't think much about. They set the electric rates and control the power company in Georgia. Both of them are incredibly important; in fact, you might say they're more important than even the Stacey Abrams-Brian Kemp race."

That said, it's unclear whether Barrow could defeat Raffensperger in today's election.

"The question is, will Democrats pour out for this vitally important election or not today? That we don't know. Generally, the Democrats drop way off in runoffs," Palast explained. He also claimed that voters like Rahiem Shabazz, who was previously profiled by Salon as one of the 340, 134 purged voters, will still be unable to cast their ballots.

"What Kemp has been doing, and the GOP has been doing, is blocking registrants who found that they were wrongly purged so that they can't vote today in the runoff," Palast told Salon. "All of them will be blocked. All the people that were notified from our Salon article — which went viral — those people will not be allowed to vote today. So once again everyone who was shafted out of their vote on Nov. 6 will be shafted out of their vote today."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Brad Raffensperger Brian Kemp Georgia Georgia Secretary Of State Greg Palast John Barrow Stacey Abrams