For the Journal-Constitution By Karen C. Handel, Georgia Secretary of State
November 16, 2008
Cynthia Tucker’s column (“GOP wants to protect right to vote —- for right people,” @issue, Nov. 12) accuses me of being a “partisan martinet” because of my efforts to uphold Georgia’s election laws and for failing to bend to the demands of partisan elected officials and special interest groups. As usual, Tucker’s criticisms are based largely on opinion rather than fact and couldn’t be further from the truth.
The voter verification process is among the policies she attacks. Even though the process is required by federal law and was upheld by U.S. District Court, Tucker criticizes me for verifying the accuracy of a voter registration applicant’s information. What is also lost on Tucker is that the process actually works, as the AJC’s own reporting showed (“Most challenge ballots substantiated,” Metro News, Nov. 8). Hundreds of naturalized citizens were indeed able to vote in their first election a few weeks ago, while hundreds of potentially fraudulent votes were prevented from being cast by non-citizens.
When it comes to voter fraud, the real “myth” is Tucker’s repeated claims that it does not exist. This fall, my office worked to bring indictments against a sitting State Court judge in Chattooga County on three counts of voter fraud. We are also investigating numerous allegations of voter fraud from this election, including voters casting ballots in multiple states, questionable voter registrations, attempted in-person voter fraud and even voting by non-citizens.
Tucker also reprises her now debunked criticisms of the state’s photo ID requirement. Despite her claims that the requirement disenfranchises voters, the results prove otherwise. Although the percentage of active voters casting ballots declined slightly from 2004, more Georgians cast ballots during this election than any other election in Georgia’s history. To date, millions of Georgians have presented ID when casting their ballots and not a single person has come forward to say that they were unable to vote because of it.
The imaginative claim of a partisan motivation behind my decision on the residency of a Public Service Commission candidate is baseless and false. Georgia law has long required that candidates must reside in the districts in which they are running and that their homestead exemptions were proof of residency. While I respect the Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling, its decision obliterates any real, objective standard for residency and replaces it with purely subjective criteria that, ironically, can now be manipulated in the future for political or partisan purposes.
Tucker also persists in repeating dishonest and factually incorrect statements in her criticisms of me for not pursuing weekend voting, as Florida and North Carolina did. She selectively omits the fact that both states have had weekend voting on the books for quite some time and that Georgia law leaves polling procedures to local boards of elections.
Tucker also overlooks that Georgians enjoy perhaps the greatest ballot access in the country, with a full 45 days in order to cast a ballot. Maybe if Florida and North Carolina had followed Georgia’s lead, they would not have had to declare an “election emergency” to extend hours. I, for one, support this access and politically motivated calls to scale it back will certainly meet with protests from our citizens.
While the overwhelming majority of county election offices administered an efficient election process, there is always room for improvement. I remain extremely concerned and frustrated with the lack of leadership and preparation in some areas, particularly in Fulton County.
Going forward, I will also continue to work with county elections officials to examine ways to increase the counties’ ability to respond to longer than normal waiting times, including additional polling places during the advance voting week.
I want to thank Georgia voters for looking past the rhetoric and for participating in this historic election. A record number of Georgians cast ballots this year, and this should be embraced and celebrated.