Repub­li­cans win runoffs

♦ Brad Raf­fensperger and Chuck Ea­ton also win the votes in Floyd County.

Rome News-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - From staff, AP re­ports

Repub­li­can Brad Raf­fensperger won a runoff elec­tion Tues­day to be­come Ge­or­gia’s next sec­re­tary of state, tak­ing over the of­fice at the cen­ter of a de­bate over voter ac­cess and elec­tion se­cu­rity in the state.

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

At his vic­tory party late 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.”

Floyd County vot­ers chose Raf­fensperger — by a slightly big- ger mar­gin than they did in the gen­eral elec­tion.

On Tues­day, Raf­fensperger won 72.45 per­cent of the 10,481 votes cast lo­cally, beat­ing Bar­row 7,594 to 2,887. In Novem­ber, he took 69.47 per­cent.

Turnout coun­ty­wide was 20.03 per­cent, down con­sid­er­ably from the 57.79 per­cent of reg­is­tered vot­ers who went to the polls Nov. 6.

In the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion runoff, Repub­li­can Chuck Ea­ton was re-elected to a third term. He de­feated Demo­crat Lindy Miller for the com­mis­sion’s Dis­trict 3 seat.

Ea­ton was again the lo­cal fa­vorite with 71.02 per­cent of the vote, pulling down 7,422 votes to Miller’s 3,029.

Floyd County Elec­tions Board Chair Steve Miller said the to­tals in both races are un­of­fi­cial and he ex­pects some ad­just­ment when the races are cer­ti­fied.

A con­sent or­der valid only for this elec­tion al­lows all ab­sen­tee bal­lots to be counted as long as they are post­marked by Tues­day and re­ceived by Fri­day. Nor­mally, the ex­tended dead­line ap­plies just to mil­i­tary and other over­seas bal­lots.

Miller said they plan to count the rest of the ab­sen­tee and val­i­dated pro­vi­sional bal­lots Fri­day, and the sec­re­tary of state is sched­uled to cer­tify the statewide vote Mon­day.

How­ever, he said state of­fi­cials may de­cide to bump that out an­other day be­cause the U.S. Postal Ser­vice is closed to­day — a Na­tional Day of Mourn­ing for the fu­neral of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush.

The sec­re­tary of state runoff cam­paign played out against the back­drop of Demo­cratic ac­cu­sa­tions that Kemp used his po­si­tion to sup­press mi­nor­ity turnout and in­crease his own odds of vic­tory. Kemp in­sists that’s false, point­ing to large in­creases in voter reg­is­tra­tion on his watch and record turnout in the Nov. 6 midterms.

Raf­fensperger fin­ished the three-way gen­eral elec­tion race ahead of Bar­row, but just shy of the 50 per­cent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.

Is­sues that dogged Kemp in the gen­eral elec­tion — Ge­or­gia’s strict “ex­act match” pol­icy for con­firm­ing vot­ers’ iden­ti­ties and re­ports that the state’s ag­ing elec­tronic vot­ing sys­tem was vul­ner­a­ble to hack­ers — be­came the fo­cus of the race to suc­ceed him.

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 prac­tices of strictly en­forc­ing voter ID laws and prun­ing reg­is­tra­tion rolls of in­ac­tive vot­ers to pre­vent vot­ing fraud. Bar­row said Ge­or­gia needed to make it less dif­fi­cult to cast bal­lots.

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

The sec­re­tary of state over­sees elec­tions, pro­fes­sional li­cens­ing and busi­ness in­cor­po­ra­tion in Ge­or­gia. The of­fice has no law en­force­ment role.

Kemp’s Demo­cratic ri­val for gover­nor, Stacey Abrams, urged vot­ers to sup­port Bar­row dur­ing the same speech in which she ac­knowl­edged de­feat and an­nounced she would sue to chal­lenge the way Ge­or­gia runs elec­tions. That suit was filed in fed­eral court last week.

Bar­row also won an en­dorse­ment from Smythe DuVal, the Lib­er­tar­ian can­di­date whose dis­tant third­place fin­ish in Novem­ber forced the race into over­time.

Raf­fensperger served four years in the Ge­or­gia House be­fore run­ning for statewide of­fice. He will take over as sec­re­tary of state in Jan­uary from Robyn Crit­ten­den, who was ap­pointed to the of­fice when Kemp stepped aside last month.

Bar­row sought a po­lit­i­cal come­back af­ter los­ing his U.S. House seat in 2014. He served a decade in Congress rep­re­sent­ing a large swath of eastern Ge­or­gia that in­cluded Athens, Au­gusta and Sa­van­nah.

Ea­ton Floyd: 7,422 Ga.: 52%

Bar­row Floyd: 2,887 Ga.: 48%

Miller Floyd: 3,029 Ga.: 48%

Raf­fensperger Floyd: 7,594 Ga.: 52%

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