Secretary of state candidates debate election integrity

Credit: Isaac Sabetai

Credit: Isaac Sabetai

Three candidates for secretary of state sparred Tuesday over who is best able to protect the integrity of elections in Georgia.

At a debate in Atlanta, incumbent Republican Brad Raffensperger cited his experience rebutting fraud allegations leveled by then-President Donald Trump following the 2020 election. Democrat Bee Nguyen pledged to expand voting rights. And Libertarian Ted Metz embraced Trump’s false fraud claims.

Tuesday’s debate comes as many Georgians believe American democracy is threatened. Surveys show most Republican voters in the state believe Trump’s false fraud allegations, and some Georgia candidates have embraced them.

Raffensperger, a former state representative, is seeking a second term as secretary of state. He gained national attention for refusing to aid Trump’s effort to overturn the presidential election in Georgia.

“I’ve had to stand up to the incredible pressure, and I’ll continue to stand up to pressure,” he said Tuesday. “When I do that, I’m standing up for you, the voter.”

Raffensperger also embraced a 2021 Georgia voting law that reduced early voting, limited the use of ballot drop boxes and otherwise tightened voting procedures. Despite the changes, he cited Monday’s record voter turnout for the first day of early voting as evidence that it’s still easy to vote in Georgia.

Nguyen, a state representative from Atlanta, slammed the new voting law. She said it criminalizes acts such as giving water to voters standing in line and it places undue burdens on local election officials.

Nguyen said she will work to repeal the election law and expand voting rights. She also noted Raffensperger’s anti-abortion stance.

“Right now, our basic rights are under attack, including the freedom to choose (abortion) and the freedom to vote,” she said. “As a lawmaker, I’ve witnessed Georgia Republicans and Mr. Raffensperger pass laws to make it harder for Georgians to vote.”

Metz has embraced Trump’s election fraud conspiracies. On Tuesday, he cited missing electronic ballot images and other discrepancies as evidence the 2020 election was “so obviously corrupted.”

Numerous investigations, court decisions and a hand recount of every ballot have found no evidence of fraud on a scale that would have affected the outcome of the election.

Nguyen and Raffensperger both support changing a provision of the 2021 election law that allows unlimited voter challenges — a provision that has led to challenges to some 65,000 Georgia voters this year. Local election boards have rejected nearly all of them for lack of sufficient evidence.

Metz said such voter challenges are needed to maintain an accurate list of eligible voters.

Watch a replay of the debate