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Georgia’s new secretary of state seeks accurate finish to vote count

New Georgia Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden is preparing to certify election results soon after each county submits its final count to the state.

Crittenden, who took office last week when Brian Kemp resigned as secretary of state, said in an interview Tuesday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News that she’s committed to finishing the election with integrity.

“The Secretary of State’s Office is very important, and it has a tremendous amount of responsibility here in our state,” Crittenden said from her office in the Georgia Capitol. “It is even more in the spotlight given what’s going on now with the election.”

Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor running against Democrat Stacey Abrams, stepped down two days after the election, saying he’s preparing to take over leadership of the state. Incomplete election results show Kemp leads Abrams, but votes are still being counted.

Now that Kemp won’t be signing off on his own candidacy, the responsibility for certifying the election falls on Crittenden.

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After each of Georgia’s 159 counties certifies its vote totals, Crittenden will tabulate and verify the numbers of votes cast by Nov. 20. 

The deadline for counties to complete their tallies was Tuesday, but Gwinnett County needed two more days to comply with an order from a federal judge Tuesday that absentee ballots must be counted even if they lack a voter’s birthdate, as long as the voter’s identity can be verified.

U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May’s order reinforced instructions Crittenden sent Monday for how counties should count absentee ballots.

Crittenden said she’s completing the election with integrity, transparency and in compliance with the law.

“There is pressure,” Crittenden said. “Success will be certifying the election and carrying out all those responsibilities.”

In the meantime, the Secretary of State’s Office is working to meet the requirements of another federal judge’s order on provisional ballots.

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg on Monday ordered the state to set up a hotline for voters to check whether their provisional ballots were counted, and to conduct a review of provisional ballot usage in the state. Provisional ballots were issued to as many as 27,000 Georgia voters because their registration or identification couldn’t be verified.

Crittenden said she doesn’t mind the lawsuits and protests surrounding the outcome of the election.

“That’s the beauty of democracy, where everyone votes and everyone has an opportunity to express themselves,” Crittenden said.

She’ll remain in office until January, when the winner of a runoff between Democrat John Barrow and Republican Brad Raffensperger will take over.

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/politics.

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