It’s been one month since Georgia’s high-profile governor race between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp, a contest that was marred by voting problems and accusations of voter suppression.
Now, voters will get the chance to elect a new official to oversee the electoral process.
On Tuesday, Georgians headed to the polls for a runoff election to decide who will become the next secretary of state. The two candidates, Democratic former US Rep. John Barrow and Republican state Rep. Brad Raffensperger, each failed to capture the required “50 percent plus one” majority of votes needed to win the election outright in November, sending the contest to Tuesday night’s election.
The victor will replace Kemp, the former secretary of state who controversially did not step down from office until two days after the election.
Polls close at 7 pm. Live results are below, powered by Decision Desk HQ.
Barrow and Raffensperger have very different takes on how to improve how people vote in Georgia, and these differences reflect larger divisions between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to voting rights and voter suppression.
Barrow, the Democrat, has largely focused on expanding voter access and ensuring that registered voters are not blocked from voting. He has cited concerns with Georgia’s “exact match” process that compares registration information to Social Security and state driver records. And he has been especially critical of voter purges, which removed more than a million voters from the rolls in the past few years, saying that the state should try harder to contact infrequent voters before removing them.
Abrams is backing Barrow’s campaign, and she’s argued that the Tuesday runoff is part of a larger fight over voting rights in Georgia.
“Georgians have another opportunity to demonstrate that they are ready to build a brighter state,” Abrams told reporters during a press call on Saturday. “Voters deserve leaders who will protect the sanctity of the vote — and that means we must elect Rep. John Barrow as secretary of state.”
Meanwhile, Raffensperger, the Republican candidate, says combating voter fraud (which has not been a problem in recent elections in the state) is the main issue. He’s proposed a system that would increase training for county-level elections officials but would leave many things, like the voter purges, unchanged from Kemp’s tenure. He has been endorsed by Kemp and President Donald Trump, who recently tweeted that the candidate would be “fantastic” for the state.
The candidates’ views reflect the heated disagreements between Kemp and Abrams that animated the final weeks of the Georgia election. But the rhetoric over the impact of voting restrictions has not been as forceful in this race, and organizers in the state are concerned that the voters who backed Abrams last month will not turn out due to depressed enthusiasm, limited publicity about the race, and frustration with a number of voting issues in some heavily minority precincts during the November election.
The results, then, will largely hinge on turnout: If a mostly white and conservative electorate shows up to cast their votes, Raffensperger is expected to win. But if the electorate is more diverse, and groups that Abrams worked to mobilize vote in high numbers, Barrow stands a better chance.
Coming after weeks of drama and controversy over the November gubernatorial contest, this runoff election gives voters the opportunity to determine what they want future elections in Georgia to look like. Now it comes down to whose vision gets the most votes.