Trump-endorsed Republican Brad Raffensperger won a runoff election on Tuesday against Democrat John Barrow to become Georgia’s next secretary of state. During the midterms, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp—now governor-elect—was criticized nationally for his voter suppression tactics, which Raffensperger will likely continue.
Kemp is one of the country’s greatest advocates of “preventing voter fraud” through policies that make it more difficult for poor people and people of color to vote. His race against Democrat Stacey Abrams was close, and nearly resulted in a runoff. Kemp resigned shortly after declaring victory in the gubernatorial race.
Now, Kemp will be replaced by another Republican, who is unlikely to undo the measures he put in place while in office. Like Kemp, Raffensperger has spoken about the need to “combat” “voter” “fraud” (aka do voter suppression).
An engineer and business owner who began his first term in the Georgia state legislature in 2015, Raffensperger has argued that combatting voter fraud (which has not been an issue in recent elections in the state) would be his main focus as the state’s chief elections official. Raffensperger has also criticized calls to overturn some of Kemp’s more controversial practices like aggressive purges of infrequent voters, arguing that election integrity will be best preserved through strict voting measures.
Raffensperger supports increasing training for county-level elections officials, but would leave many practices unchanged from Kemp’s tenure. He was endorsed by Kemp and President Donald Trump, who recently tweeted that the candidate would be “fantastic” for the state.
Abrams maintains that voter suppression played a role in her loss. In a December speech, she refused to concede the election. “I will not concede because the erosion of our democracy is not right,” she said, according to NPR.
In the wake of the midterms, several lawsuits are challenging voting practices in Georgia. One of these, brought by groups associated with Abrams, argues that voter suppression in the state is so bad that it calls the legitimacy of election results into question.
A major point of controversy in Georgia’s election was the “exact match” system, in which almost any information used by a voter on their absentee ballot that differs from their ID can disqualify their vote. Lawsuits filed by organizations including the NAACP have been brought to challenge that rule as well. With Raffensperger in charge, it’s going to be a long fight.