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John Barrow, Wikimiedia Commons

Georgia voters have a chance today to start fixing the multiple trainwrecks of fuckery that have led to voter suppression, long waits at the polls due to "technical issues," and concerns about the security of election computers and voting machines. Or they could elect another damn Republican and keep the trainwrecks, because look, cool twisted metal! A month after former Secretary of State Brian Kemp engineered a "win" against Stacey Abrams, voters go to the polls today in a runoff election to replace Kemp as secretary of state. The Democrat, former congressman John Barrow, has pledged to replace the state's hinky touchscreen voting machines with paper ballots and end the arbitrary purges that have removed millions from the voter rolls since 2012. The Republican, state Rep. Brad Raffensperger, thinks everything about Georgia's current voting system is just nifty.


Barrow has the full endorsement of Stacey Abrams, who's appeared in campaign ads for the runoff, and he knows a thing or two about Republican electoral fuckery: He's called himself "the most gerrymandered member of Congress in history," which seems likely; while he held on to office as the last white Democratic member of the House from the deep South, Republicans in the state lege redrew the districts he represented twice, both times eliminating large chunks of friendly voters, eventually getting rid of so many black voters from his district in Savannah that the newly redrawn district elected a Republican in 2014.

Barrow lost the general election to Raffensperger by less than a single percentage point in November (about 19,000 votes), but because there was a third candidate, Raffensperger got less than the 50 percent plus one needed to win outright, triggering today's runoff. In the outrage over all Kemp's fuckery in the general election, there's some real hope that Barrow may be able to make up that distance, but he faces some challenges. For one, it's a runoff in December, and that's always going to get lower turnout than a general election, even though Abrams has kept the band together and her coalition has worked to mobilize voters, who remain pissed off.

Here's a nice test-your-perspective exercise: Early voting for the runoff was 56 percent lower than early voting for the general election. If you want to call that glass half empty, you certainly could. This is, after all, a runoff between two white male candidates, and the charismatic Abrams is not on the ticket. But hold on a damn minute. Georgia's early voting in 2018 smashed all previous records, and more than doubled the turnout for the last midterm election in 2014. So if you want to keep hope alive, getting half of that turnout for a single-office runoff may still indicate pretty intense interest in fixing Georgia's broken elections.

Which is what Barrow promises to do. In an op-ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as the runoff got underway, Barrow wrote, "Any thing we do that makes it harder than necessary for honest citizens to register, stay registered, or vote undermines their right to vote." He wants to replace those unreliable touch-screen voting machines (which leave no paper record of votes) with paper ballots and optical scanners like sane states use.

Barrow also wants to get rid of Georgia's current bullshit system of purging voter rolls by sending out postcards to any voter who's missed two general elections, then purging anyone who doesn't mail back the cards -- which many voters may mistake for junk mail. Instead, says Barrow, how about actually relying on hard data for voter roll updates, checking the rolls against death certificates and change of address forms filed by voters? Sounds crazy, but it just might work!

Raffensperger, on the other hand, thinks things are pretty darn nice just as they are:

He says Barrow's election would lead to "more illegal voting than ever," even though there's scant evidence of noncitizens voting in US elections. He called Kemp "a man of high integrity," said he shouldn't have resigned as secretary of state while running for governor, and dismissed the allegations of voter suppression as "unfounded and unfair." Despite rampant problems on Election Day, which included three-hour lines in metro Atlanta and a dramatic increase in contested provisional ballots, Raffensperger said there were "actually very few precincts" with voting problems.

After all, the guy who ran the election with all that fuckery became Georgia's governor, didn't he? Things work just fine! As for the crappy voting machines, Marilyn Marks, the executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, warns the Republican wants to spend a ton of money on newer, shiner crap that still won't leave a paper trail.

[Raffensperger] has fallen for the vendor-promoted next generation of un-auditable high-risk touchscreen voting machines that turn votes into barcodes, with little improvement over the current machines that plague Georgia's elections.

Raffensperger seems to think he has the election sewn up, what with Abrams not on the ballot -- he even skipped the single televised debate for the runoff, attending a fundraiser instead and leaving Barrow to debate an empty chair. And while some Abrams supporters have said they're finding it hard to get overly enthusiastic about a self-proclaimed "flaming moderate," many still plan to vote today, because, as several voters told the New Yorker, dude may not be thrilling like Abrams, but the current fuckery has to stop, and Barrow intends to stop it. Today's runoff is all about turnout, and it would be a mistake to underestimate just how deeply pissed voters are about how the GOP tilted the playing field in November. We know you're disgusted, Georgians, but get out there and win this one for Stacey, won't you?

[Mother Jones / New Yorker / Atlanta Journal-Constitution / AJC]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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