For the Journal-Constitution By Karen C. Handel, Georgia Secretary of State
October 30, 2008
Taking the lead from the Democratic Party of Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution advocates that Gov. Sonny Perdue and I make up election law just four days before Election Day. As the newspaper is very aware, even if the authority existed —- which it does not —- Georgia is covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which means that any changes in election procedures must be “precleared” by the U.S. Department of Justice before they can be implemented.
Usually, this newspaper is a stickler for following the law and procedures. I wonder what their position would be if another political party made a similar request? I’ll leave that to the imagination of the readers.
The facts are that Georgia voters enjoy perhaps the broadest ballot access of any state in the nation. Thanks to the 45 days of early and advance voting, approximately 1.5 million citizens have already cast ballots, and this is with the photo ID law in effect. By most measures, this would be considered a success. Even compared to Florida, our voters have much more time to vote.
Moreover, any changes now would introduce prohibitive legal, practical and logistical hurdles to our elections process. Maybe if Florida had followed our lead, Gov. Charlie Crist may not have had to declare a state of emergency and ask counties to stay open longer and over the weekend.
Of course, there are lines this week, and there will be lines on Election Day. Most Georgians reasonably expect that. My job is to ensure our counties are doing everything they can so voters are able to cast their ballots as quickly and easily as possible. The overwhelming majority of Georgia’s county election offices are properly managing this record turnout. Most elections officials made the necessary preparations and their voters have benefited from an efficient voting process. In the counties where there have been problems, their officials have reacted quickly —- deploying additional resources and personnel. Today, the process is moving much more efficiently in these counties than it was earlier this week.
Georgians have been able to cast a ballot in this year’s general election with no excuse required since Sept. 22. The law requires, and the public expects, a definitive ending date to each election, particularly in a presidential election year. Georgians can be assured that my office is not going to attempt to change the rules to accommodate the political whims of groups or newspapers less than a week before Election Day.