Raffensperger makes stop in Dalton

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Jan. 24—Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger made an appearance in Dalton as part of a statewide voting system "health security check" on Tuesday, Jan. 23.

"We started about mid-year of last year," he said. "By the end of the week, early next week, we'll be finished with all 159 counties."

He noted that logic and accuracy testing will be conducted on the equipment before any of it is put out in the field for the 2024 elections in Georgia.

"So that voters have confidence," he said. "It also lets the election directors know that everything is working well."

Raffensperger said "parallel monitoring" will occur during the early voting period for the presidential preference primaries this spring.

"That's just to verify that nothing's happening to the machines," he said. "Any kind of mechanical failure or any kind of, you know, bad actors that could come in and try to affect the outcome."

As the political climate in Georgia gets more "competitive," Raffensperger said "that every single ballot counts even more because one vote here could mean the difference between winning or losing or being in a runoff."

Considering the large volume of candidates on Georgia's ballots, Raffensperger said he believes several runoff elections are likely this summer.

"Because you could have four or five people running for a contested seat — a county commissioner, state rep, state senator," he said.

Raffensperger, a Republican who has served as secretary of state since 2019, said Georgia law requires voting lines on Election Day to be shorter than a one-hour wait.

"We're also going to have our new electronic poll pads, which is really exciting," he said. "That just speeds up the whole process of check-in ... you're going to have check-ins as low as two minutes."

The early voting period for elections in Georgia, he said, spans 17 days.

"So they have lots of opportunities," he said. "No matter how you vote in Georgia now, it's all based on photo ID — we're the only state in America that has voter ID for all forms of voting."

As for potential legislation that could emerge from the ongoing General Assembly session, Raffensperger said he wants to see a state constitutional amendment that would only allow United States citizens to vote in Georgia's elections.

"If you look at what voters are saying, that's the No. 1 concern," he said.

Raffensperger also said bills addressing "foreign influence" could be on the horizon.

"There's federal prohibitions, but by state law, there's nothing in there," he said. "So we're calling on the General Assembly to pass a bill so that there can be no foreign expenditures by foreign companies or foreign entities for any campaigns or any contributions whatsoever."

And as for lobbyists and consultants of foreign corporations?

"We believe that you should be registered so that people know who you are and who you're working for," he said. "Because you look at all of the nation states, like China, Russia, Iran and other people, people need to know who you're working for."

One proposed bill under the Gold Dome in Atlanta would remove the secretary of state from the State Election Board.

"I think that from since the beginning of time, the secretary of state actually was the chair of the State Election Board," he said. "I think that when you have someone that is held accountable by the voters, of the people, who holds an elected position — instead of an unelected board, commission or authority with political appointees, it's really difficult to hold them accountable ... but when you have someone at the top as well as on the ballot every four years, then you have direct accountability to the voters and it's the best way to go."

Raffensperger said he doesn't believe the maelstrom of legal issues enveloping the 2024 presidential election — from lawsuits to indictments — will have much impact on Georgia's certification processes.

"We want to make sure that we continue on with the process and we have been pushing back since Stacey Abrams, who hit us up with 10 lawsuits after the 2018 race and we prevailed on those cases," he said. "We'll just continue to soldier on."

Raffensperger said there is no doubt that the statewide turnout for the 2024 presidential election in Georgia will be massive.

"It's a very polarizing environment, we understand," he said. "Georgia is a very competitive state but we'll have a fair, honest, accurate election."

With so much talk about the electronics undergirding Georgia's elections, an entirely separate issue — the availability of actual poll workers for this year's high-volume, high-stakes races — doesn't garner quite as much publicity.

But a lack of personnel could become a more significant matter. At the beginning of 2024 representatives for the Whitfield County Board of Elections indicated that more than 100 poll workers were needed to ensure the voting places throughout the community are adequately staffed later this year.

Raffensperger described some potential outreach strategies to address possible poll worker shortages.

"We will work with national organizations, business groups, local groups — Rotaries, Kiwanis and other community-based organizations like that, and church groups," Raffensperger said. "You make a small stipend for what you do, but it's the best work."

He also said that "activists" could play a part in filling personnel gaps.

"Don't just become a poll watcher for a political party, become a poll worker," he said. "You'll get all the training that goes with it but then you'll see the process and you'll get all your questions answered as you work the poll on one of those 16-, 17-hour days."

A small smattering of constituents turned out at the Whitfield County Courthouse for the visit, with Raffensperger fielding no questions from the scant few public attendees.