Georgia voters head to the polls again to decide who will run elections

Democrat Secretary of State candidate John Barrow speaks during a campaign stop in Augusta, Ga. Monday, December 3, 2018. Barrow is pitted against Republican Brad Raffensperger in a runoff that will be decided Tuesday. (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP)

It's Election Day in Georgia — again — as voters get one more chance to choose who oversees changes to the state's elections infrastructure.

Tuesday's runoff will decide whether a Republican or a Democrat will run future elections after the contentious gubernatorial contest between Gov.-elect Brian Kemp and challenger Stacey Abrams. Kemp remained secretary of state until after his election as governor, infuriating Democrats who called it a conflict of interest and accused him of suppressing minority votes.

Both Republican state Rep. Brad Raffensperger and former Democratic congressman John Barrow promise, if elected, to replace Georgia's paperless voting machines with a system that produces paper records that could be used to audit election results.

But Raffensperger would make preventing fraud his priority, pledging to continue Kemp's practice of strictly enforcing voter ID laws and pruning registration rolls of inactive voters. Barrow, in contrast, says Georgia needs to do more to make it easier to cast ballots, and to count every vote.

The only other statewide race in Tuesday's runoff pits incumbent Republican Chuck Eaton against Democrat Lindy Miller for a seat on the Georgia Public Service Commission.

Eaton has the support of the nuclear power industry as commissioners must decide who pays the ballooning costs of the Plant Vogtle nuclear plant. Miller, a solar energy executive, insists that shareholders, not ratepayers, bear the risk of cost overruns.

The secretary of state's runoff focused on the same issues that dogged Kemp in the general election — Georgia's strict "exact match" policy for confirming voters' identities, the repeated exposure of voters' personal information and reports that its aging computer systems are vulnerable to hackers. Kemp insists the Democrats' accusations are false, pointing to large increases in voter registration on his watch and record turnout on Nov. 6.

President Donald Trump endorsed the Republican in a tweet calling Raffensperger "tough on Crime and Borders," even though the office of secretary of state oversees elections, professional licensing and business incorporation, and has no law enforcement role.

Abrams urged voters to support Barrow as her Fair Fight Georgia group pursues a federal lawsuit challenging the state's elections infrastructure.

Barrow also was endorsed by Smythe DuVal, the Libertarian candidate whose distant third-place finish in November forced the runoff.

A win by Barrow, of Athens, would give Democrats a long-sought statewide victory in Georgia, where Republicans have held every statewide office from governor to insurance commissioner since 2010. It would also mark a personal comeback for Barrow, who served for a decade in Washington before losing his U.S. House seat in 2014.

Raffensperger, of the northern metro Atlanta suburb of Johns Creek, has served four years in the state legislature.

The winner will take over in January from Robyn Crittenden, who was appointed secretary of state when Kemp stepped down after the election.

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