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bY chance Harbour • OCT. 27, 2018

Video courtesy of The Atlanta Press Club

As the midterm election approaches, the candidates for Georgia's secretary of state have been busy campaigning to get Georgia residents' votes in November.

Prior to early voting beginning, candidates John Barrow, Smythe DuVal and Brad Raffensperger faced off in a debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club.


The candidates were questioned on various topics concerning the position of secretary of state, which is primarily tasked with overseeing elections in Georgia.


DuVal believes that various state boards are no longer receiving adequate funding and that the secretary of state’s office needs to provide more funding to these boards, as well as those applying for a business license or professional license.


“If we’re going to make this Georgia the best state to do business in the country, then we need to have the services that live up to that,” DuVal said.


Raffensperger wants to retain these many state boards that are wanting to leave the oversight of the secretary of state’s office due to the lack of funding.


“If there are any boards that need attention, need fixing, need some modifications, either legislatively or administratively, that’ll be my first focus,” Raffensperger said.

Voting methods were the primary focus of the debate, as each candidate offered their solutions to fix problems in Georgia's election process.

"It is an absolute travesty if you use any bureaucratic measures or any other kinds of ways to prevent people from voting." - Smythe DuVal



Barrow called for the decertification of current voting machines, claiming that because they can be hacked, they do not meet the standards outlined in Georgia law.


He attributed some blame to Raffensperger, who has been in the general assembly for the past four years and was responsible for oversight of the secretary of state’s office, for the delay in fixing this issue.


“There’s been a failure of leadership on both ends of that street to make sure that the voters in Georgia cast ballots that are counted exactly the way they cast them,” Barrow said.


Barrow is in favor of hand-marked paper ballots that can be easily read by the voter and counted afterwards and decertifying the current machines that can be hacked.


“They’re only good enough for government work,” Barrow said. “They’re not good enough for elections.”


Rather than replace voting machines in favor of paper ballots as Barrow recommends, Raffensperger would opt to upgrade these machines.


“At the end of the day, we want to make sure that we protect the vote and that there’s an integrity of the voting process,” Raffensperger said.

DuVal is in favor of a hand-marked paper ballot and claimed to be the fiscal conservative in this race, challenging Raffensperger’s plan to purchase new electronic ballot markers that could cost over $100 million in order to secure votes.


Raffensperger is confident that this upcoming election will be secure, but he is still concerned about the security of voter information. He also proposed that Social Security numbers should be moved to a separate database and encrypted.


Barrow supports updating the voting rolls and using death records and U.S. Postal Service reports of people who have moved.


“It’s also easier to get bumped from the rolls than it is to lose your water service at home,” Barrow said. “I think the ability to vote is a whole lot more important than the ability to flush your toilet in an apartment.”


DuVal advocates same-day voter registration to maintain accurate and updated voter rolls and to “prevent partisan mischief” as seen in Georgia’s gubernatorial race.


"We have a constitutional right to participate in representative democracy in this country, and it is an absolute travesty if you use any bureaucratic measures or any other kinds of ways to prevent people from voting," DuVal said.


Another one of DuVal’s campaign platforms is the idea of ranked-choice voting, which would have voters rank the candidates from their most favorite to least favorite.


“Bring that to Georgia and we increase political competition, we save tax money [and] it serves our military,” DuVal said. “It is a no-brainer solution for the state of Georgia.”


Running as the election reform candidate, DuVal said that he is radically independent of the other parties and free of their interests, rather pursuing “competitive, fair and secure” elections for everyone, regardless of their political affiliation.


“I am committed to fixing Georgia’s broken election system,” DuVal said. “I represent all Georgians in the American way that we’re supposed to have representational government.”


Barrow challenged Raffensperger’s failure to pay $1 million in delinquent property taxes until this year.


“What you’ve done is you’ve taken something that was designed to protect the innocent from innocent mistakes and turned it into a safe harbor for deadbeats, even rich deadbeats,” Barrow said. “If that ain’t disqualifying, it ought to be.”


“People like John Barrow are why we need photo ID,” Raffensperger said.


“Another thing that I support,” Barrow said.


The candidates finally gave their closing remarks.


“If you want a secretary of state who will do the job the way it’s supposed to be [done], cares about the job, wants to do the job the way it’s supposed to do and who brings some accountability back to the office, then I ask for your vote,” Barrow said.


“As an election reform candidate, I’m offering Georgians a chance for genuine change,” DuVal said. “Vote for me and you’ll get the attention of the general assembly. Put me in office and you’ll get the attention of the entire nation.”


“I’m the only business owner in this race that has run an office the size of the secretary of state’s office,” Raffensperger said. “I’m ready to run on day one to fix the things that need to be fixed, improve the things that need to be improve and make the changes that need to be changed.”

Registered Georgia voters can now participate in early voting and cast their ballots ahead of Election Day on Nov. 6.

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