Another View: Integrity of elections ‘my highest priority’
For the Journal-Constitution By Karen C. Handel, Georgia Secretary of State
September 23, 2008
More Georgians than ever will participate in the upcoming presidential election. In 2004, 77 percent of Georgia’s registered voters cast votes for president, and we expect an even higher turnout this year. While there are obvious challenges in managing some 4 million voters, our office and the county elections officials have been preparing for over a year.
During July and August, we met with all 159 county elections officials to review preparations. We’ve developed online training and an information portal for elections officials, poll workers, state and federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations focusing on election law and procedure. We’ve also increased training opportunities for county elections officials, specifically concentrating on photo ID, proper use of election equipment, provisional voting and poll worker training. The integrity and security of Georgia’s elections are my highest priority. Georgia’s photo identification law has now been in effect for over a year, and over 4 million votes have been cast without incident. We created the agency’s first Office of Inspector General to focus on election fraud and proactive elections monitoring. Throughout the elections cycle, more than 50 investigators and elections monitors will be stationed across the state, so that any problem that does arise can be addressed immediately.
Our elections equipment is subject to one of the most stringent testing and certification processes in the United States. Our voting systems must pass a rigorous four-level federal and state certification process before being used in an election. Additionally, we will deploy over 100 technicians as local rapid-responders.
With the expected high turnout and a growing voting population, we also worked with the governor and the Legislature to expand voting opportunities. For the first time, Georgians can vote early starting this week at their county registrar’s office with no excuse needed. Georgians can also vote by mail —- also with no excuse. During Advance Voting Week, held Oct. 27-31, many counties will offer numerous satellite voting centers and extended voting hours.
While a recent Common Cause report supposedly addressed elections preparedness in the state, a close read reveals that the real criticisms of Georgia are related to their opposition to photo ID (they were the plaintiff in the federal lawsuit against Georgia), their support for multilingual ballots and other ideologically driven initiatives. I simply disagree with Common Cause, and make no apologies for my support of photo ID or for presenting all election materials and ballots in English only.