Republican Brad Raffensperger wins runoff for Georgia secretary of state

Raffensperger will take charge of the election system in a state roiled by accusations of voter suppression

The Republican Brad Raffensperger won a runoff election late on Tuesday to become Georgia’s secretary of state – taking charge of the election system in a state roiled by accusations of voter suppression.

The Republican state lawmaker from suburban Atlanta defeated the former Democratic congressman John Barrow to become Georgia’s top elections official, the office vacated by Governor-elect Brian Kemp.

Raffensperger’s runoff win comes after a contentious governor’s race where Kemp defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams in the midterm elections.

Abrams, who accused her opponent Kemp of using his government office to suppress votes and benefit his own gubernatorial campaign, finally acknowledged defeat in the close race more than a week after the election. But she also announced a federal lawsuit over mismanagement of the voting process. Kemp denied wrongdoing.

At his victory party late on Tuesday, Raffensperger told supporters he would faithfully carry out elections in Georgia.

“I’m going to make sure that elections are clean, fair and accurate,” he said. “And that’s the No 1 priority as your next secretary of state.”

Barrow did not concede. “We need to make sure that every voice is heard,” he said, adding he would wait for remaining ballots to be counted.

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In the 6 November general election, neither candidate for secretary of state got a majority of the vote in a three-way race, triggering a runoff. Raffensperger had finished just ahead of Barrow.

The runoff race continued the voter suppression fight, with the candidates debating Georgia’s strict “exact match” policy for confirming voters’ identities and reports that the state’s ageing electronic voting system was vulnerable to hackers.

Both Raffensperger and Barrow promised to replace Georgia’s voting machines with a system that produces paper records that could be used to audit elections if needed.

Meanwhile, Raffensperger pledged to continue Kemp’s controversial practices of strictly enforcing voter ID laws and pruning registration rolls of inactive voters in a stated bid to prevent voting fraud – while Barrow said Georgia needed to make it less difficult to cast ballots.

The exact match policy, specifying a match even down to an apostrophe or hyphen between their ID and voter registration records, resulted in 53,000 people who attempted to register to vote – 70% of them black – having their registrations put on hold.

Donald Trump endorsed Raffensperger with a tweet calling the Republican “tough on Crime and Borders”.

Contributor

Erin Durkin and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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