Experts and politicians alike agree that Georgia’s current election system is in need of an upgrade. On Thursday, a group of key players in the state election process met in Grovetown at the Columbia County Convention Center to talk about what is needed in the future.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp was part of the S.A.F.E. Commission that heard from cyber security experts, minority groups, representatives for disabled voters and many more. S.A.F.E is an acronym for secure, accessible, fair elections. The purpose of Thursday’s meeting that started at 9A and went well into the evening was to point all that Georgia should consider for future elections.
Secretary of State Kemp told NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Osborne he is confident in Georgia’s election process, but it’s “aging out.”
“We have to move to a new system and that’s what this process is about,” said Secretary of State Kemp who is currently the Republican Candidate for Georgia’s next Governor.
Both Columbia and Richmond County’s Board of Elections Directors participated in discussions.
“We need to know that the vote we cast is counted in the way we cast it,” says Richmond County Board of Elections Director Lynn Bailey. “After the election we can go back and prove that the equipment functioned properly. All of that helps to build confidence in the process,” she says.
Jackson Faw came to Grovetown from Atlanta to contribute to the public comment portion at the end of the meeting.
“Georgia is very concerned that the national spotlight is going to be on Georiga with the election of the first black female gubernatorial candidate from a major party ever,” Faw says about Democratic Candidate for Governor Stacey Abrams.
Faw says there are many people like him who want to make sure the elections in Georgia are transparent, accountable and fair.
“Unfortunately, we have a Secretary of State who is in control of elections who is also running as a Republican Candidate for Governor,” Faw says about Brian Kemp. “There’s an inherent conflict of interest there. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this meeting today is 2 hours away from Atlanta. I don’t think they wanted the scrutiny.”
Earlier in the week critics said the SAFE meeting scheduled for Thursday in Grovetown was simply a smokescreen to cover for the pending Federal lawsuit and political drama. Ashley Osborne asked Secretary of State Kemp for his response to these statements.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Kemp says. “I think if you ask any of these county elections officials about how inclusive I have been as Secretary of State, how the people that our working in our office that partner with counties every single day on elections will tell you that we’re as inclusive as any Secretary of State there’s ever been.”
There is a pending Federal lawsuit against Georgia. In September, a judge will decide if Georgia needs to scrap their current election system for security reasons and have a new one by the 2018 November election. Supporters of this plan say it is critical to voter fairness. Kemp does not support a change so close to election day.
“At this point, I don’t see how you implement that,” Kemp says. “We’ve made that case. Not only have I made that case, but the local county elections officials that have to prepare for the elections have made that case. In our belief, to do something at this late of a date, quite honestly would be chaotic. “
Kemp says his team has worked on updating election protocol for more than a year. He explains why he thinks an abrupt judgment from the court system is a bad idea when it comes to updating election procedures.
“I think the difference between an order like that versus what we’re working on is this process we’re going through would be an orderly process to changing the system and that’s the way it should be done so you don’t have problems,” Kemp says.
Kemp says his office is “getting ready for the election with the current system that we have.” They have made no moves to change the structure before the 2018 November election in which he is running for Governor.