State Rep. Brad Raffensperger, who’s running for secretary of state in this month’s Republican runoff, said government agencies have verified that he doesn’t owe most of the $135,000 in tax debts that appear to be tied to him and his companies. (REANN HUBER/REANN.HUBER@AJC.COM)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Opinion: Ga. needs fair, open, accurate, secure elections

On July 4, 1944, Primus King, a duly registered voter, walked into the Muscogee County Courthouse to cast a ballot in the primary election. He was thrown out into the street.

It took almost two years for the Supreme Court to uphold Primus King’s right to vote.

What happened to Primus King was a horrible injustice. Regretfully, Georgia’s past is stained with similar injustices.

As I think about the role of the Secretary of State as Georgia’s Chief Election Officer, I step back from the passions and overheated partisan rhetoric of a hotly contested election. As an engineer, I think about the “machinery” of elections. I think about the process. What can we do to make the process more transparent? What can we do to make the process more accessible? What can we do to make the process more accurate? What can we do to make the process objectively fair?

At the same time, I think about whether the results yielded by the process are ones that Georgians subjectively see as trustworthy.

For Georgians to trust an election, they must be able to see for themselves that the process was fair. The way to do this is for Georgians to see that the process was open.

Georgians all agree that we should strive for voter rolls that are clean, up-to-date and accurate. Georgians all agree that registration should be streamlined but maintain accuracy.

Accuracy is not suppression when it is applied with Wisdom, Justice and Moderation. Voter protection is not discrimination when it is applied with Wisdom, Justice and Moderation. Up-to-date and accurate voter rolls are not the enemy of participation when applied with Wisdom, Justice and Moderation.

Unlike my opponent, I haven’t pre-determined that there is one magic bullet in only one particular voting system that solves every problem. In fact, I note that the current fiasco in Florida is being conducted on my opponent’s so-called gold standard. Among the states, there are at least seven different voting systems in use at present.

As we change over to a new voting system, Georgia has an historic, one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a process that is objectively fair which yields an outcome that Georgians, individually and as a whole, subjectively trust. We don’t need another lifetime politician to tell us that there’s only one “right” way to do something, the way that he’s already decided that it’s going to be. Rather than saying that I alone have the one and only right answer, I propose to involve nonpartisan expert organizations like the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia.

While we are all equal before the law, most Georgians will live their entire lives without having to go to court. Thus, it is through voting were we actually live the proposition that we are all equal. Every registered voter gets one vote. Bill Gates gets one vote. The 19-year-old college student gets one vote. And thus, we reaffirm as regular and as often as every election season, the idea that makes us one. We are all equal before the law. We all count. We all have a voice.

We can go with yet another pre-determined, pre-decided so-called “gold standard” that my opponent proposes, that even as you read this is being made a mockery of in Florida. In contrast, my view is that this election is about using this unique and historic opportunity to create a voting system that is modern, efficient, accurate, secure, safe, verifiable, fair, accessible, and trustworthy.

As your Secretary of State, I promise to you that I will devote myself to creating a system that would be worthy of patriots like Primus King.

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Brad Raffensperger is the Republican candidate for Georgia Secretary of State in the Dec. 4 runoff election.