Early voting underway for Georgia secretary of state race

Paperwork and voting stickers sit out for voters of the Georgia primary election Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at the Chattanooga Valley Church of the Nazarene in Flintstone, Georgia.

North Georgia voters can cast ballots in one last statewide election this year, and the main issue at hand is voting itself.

Democrat John Barrow and Republican Brad Raffensperger are competing in a Dec. 4 runoff for the secretary of state position, replacing governor-elect Brian Kemp. Early voting began today and runs through Friday.

In addition to professional licenses and corporate filings, the winner will oversee the state's elections. The candidates disagree on Georgia's current voter purge law, and both men fall in line with their party's conventional wisdom.

In Georgia, the local county election office will send a letter to voters if they have not cast ballots in races for three straight years. The local office will ask voters if their listed address is still current. If they don't receive responses within 30 days, the secretary of state's office places those voters on an "inactive" list.

"Inactive" voters can still cast ballots. But if they don't show up to the polls for four more years, the state removes the voters from the rolls, meaning they would have to register again. In all, this process takes seven years.

Barrow says the state needs to do away with this law, reasoning that failing to participate alone should not cast out active voters. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June, "If you've got something better to do and nothing worth voting for, you've got a God-given right not to vote."

But Raffensperger said this law is about election security. He believes a bad actor can take advantage of an, unused name on a voting list and told Atlanta Magazine, "clean voter lists reduce opportunities for voter fraud so someone can't steal another voter's identity and then vote."

These two arguments are almost a mirror of what the state's governor candidates argued about for years. Democrat Stacey Abrams argued that the state suppressed people's right to vote and declined to concede after losing losing the election earlier this month by about 60,000 votes. Kemp, meanwhile, argued the law protects the state from voter fraud.

After cybersecurity experts complained that Georgia's current voting machines are vulnerable to hacks, Kemp formed a commission to review potential replacements. Barrow and Raffensperger say they want to change the voting system, though they have different solutions.

Barrow wants the state to move entirely to paper ballots, with scanners reading voters' selections. Raffensperger wants to keep the current system of touchscreens at polling sites, but he wants machines that can print paper ballots. This would allow voters to verify that the machines correctly recorded their vote.

Raffensperger has attacked Barrow for wanting to do away with the state's voter ID law, which requires residents to provide a driver's license or other state-issued ID to cast ballots. But Barrow has said during the campaign that he is actually not against the law.

The two candidates are in a runoff because neither recorded more than 50 percent of the vote, as required in Georgia. Raffensperger received 1.9 million votes, or about 49 percent. Barrow trailed him by 16,000 votes.

Libertarian Smythe DuVal, who received about 87,000 votes, has endorsed Barrow.

Raffensperger, an engineer from Johns Creek, has been a state representative since 2015. He previously served three years on the Johns Creek City Council.

Barrow, meanwhile, was a U.S. representative from 2005 to 2015. He was the last white Democrat in the Deep South, working as a moderate who touted his National Rifle Association endorsement. He served Georgia 12th Congressional District, which is in the southeastern part of the state.

Here is where and when North Georgia voters can cast ballots this week, according to the secretary of state's office:

Catoosa County

Locations:

  • Ringgold Precinct: 5238 Evitt Street, Ringgold, Ga.
  • Westside Precinct: 3319 Lakeview Drive, Rossville, Ga.

Hours:

  • Today: Until 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Thursday: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Chattooga County

Location: Chattooga County Registrar Office: 10017 Commerce Street, Summerville, Ga.

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Dade County

Location: Administrative Building: 71 Case Avenue, Trenton, Ga.

Hours:

  • Monday through Thursday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Friday: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Gordon County

Location: Elections Office: 215 North Wall Street, Calhoun, Ga.

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Murray County

Location: Courthouse Annex: 121 N. 4th Avenue, Chatsworth, Ga.

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday

Walker County

Location: County Courthouse: 103 S. Duke Street, LaFayette, Ga.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday

Whitfield County

Location: County Courthouse: 205 N. Selvidge St., Dalton, Ga.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or [email protected]timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.