National News

Republicans Keep Control of Georgia Elections With Runoff Victory

Posted December 4, 2018 11:13 p.m. EST

Widespread anger in Georgia over a voting system that Democrats believed to be rigged against them was not enough to prevent a Republican candidate from winning a runoff Tuesday for secretary of state, the chief overseer of the state’s elections.

Brad Raffensperger, an engineer from the Atlanta suburbs and a member of the state House, defeated John Barrow, a Democrat who supported overhauling the election system that some in his party said had helped Republicans “steal” the closely fought Georgia governor’s race last month.

The Associated Press declared Raffensperger the winner at 10:20 p.m. Eastern Time. Uncertified tallies showed Raffensperger with 54 percent of the vote in the runoff, compared with 46 percent for Barrow.

Raffensperger, 63, largely supported the status quo in Georgia’s election system, and said he was running for secretary of state “to make sure that only American citizens are voting in our elections.”

Democrats have assailed the election stewardship of Brian Kemp, the Republican who continued to serve as secretary of state while he ran for governor. He narrowly defeated Stacey Abrams, a former minority leader in the Georgia House, who was seeking to become the nation’s first black female governor.

Abrams did not acknowledge defeat until 10 days after Election Day, after extended wrangling over the counting of absentee and provisional ballots. When she did, she declared that Georgia had suffered an “erosion of our democracy” on Kemp’s watch.

Abrams and her allies believe that Kemp oversaw what amounted to a system of voter suppression aimed at Democrats and minority voters, with policies that purged more than 1 million voters from the rolls and suspended thousands of new registrations over personal data that did not exactly match other government databases.

Kemp maintained that the policies were fair and necessary to prevent voter fraud.

Barrow, 63, echoed many of the criticisms of the state electoral system lodged by Abrams and her supporters, though with less vehemence. A former congressman with a penchant for centrism, he declared in one memorable campaign commercial, “I’m a Democrat, but I won’t bite you.”

Abrams threw her fundraising and organizational support behind Barrow in the runoff, and recorded a radio ad praising him and promising to keep working “until we guarantee a fair fight for future elections.”

But Barrow, who had survived a decade in Congress in a conservative-leaning district by courting moderates from both parties, did not think he could win solely on liberal outrage over the voting system. He ran ads in the runoff focused not on voting rights, but on Raffensperger’s tax liens.

One issue on which Raffensperger and Barrow agreed was Georgia’s electronic voting machines, which critics say leave an inadequate audit trail and are susceptible to hacking. Both candidates said they favored updating the machines.