ATLANTA — Controversy about alleged fraud in voter registration thrust the normally obscure race for secretary of state into the headlines, and now the candidates for the post are trying to make the most of it.
Republican incumbent Brian Kemp is trying to fend off a challenge from Democrat Doreen Carter. Kemp, whose previous career was as a real-estate developer in the Athens area and a state senator, won appointment to the post from then-Gov. Sonny Perdue to complete Karen Handel’s term before winning election to his own four-year term in 2010. As an incumbent, he has a record to run on, or defend, and Carter is holding him to it.
Carter, a former member of the Lithonia City Council and financial advisor to low-income clients, accuses Kemp of trying to discourage Democrats from voting. She points to his support of the reduced early-voting period, computerized verification of citizenship that flagged a greater portion of minorities for scrutiny and an aggressive investigation into suspected fraud by a Democratic-leaning group registering voters across the state called the New Georgia Project.
“Throughout his term, Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, has used his office to suppress the votes of seniors, students and people of color,” she said.
For his part, Kemp refutes her charges. The shorter early-voting period was at the request of small cities that can’t afford to staff the voting places for days with few voters show up. The citizenship review was required by state and federal law, and the voter-registration investigation has already spotted more than two-dozen apparent felony forgeries and countless procedural violations.
“We have seen all sorts of shifting excuses and partisan rants during this investigation, but they will not alter my commitment to protecting the security of our registration process,” he said.
But Kemp has angered more than just Democrats while in office. He riled history buffs when he cut back hours at the State Archives until Gov. Nathan Deal stepped in with temporary funding and permanent transfer of the facility out of Kemp’s reach.
And Kemp’s oversight of professional licensing triggered an uprising by nurses, dentist, pharmacists and other professionals that eventually led to multiple professions getting the legislature to transfer the supervision to other agencies and away from him. Kemp acknowledges there have been problems, like repeated glitches with the online renewal and registration system that professionals use.
He blames the snags on funding and vows to push for fatter budgets next year.
“With regards to professional licensing, it is true that increased regulations and budget cuts over the last several years have disproportionately impacted the ability of our office to handle the licensing process in a timely and efficient manner,” he said.
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