With Brian Kemp set to be our next governor, it would be easy to ignore the upcoming run-off election on December 4. But there are two candidates on the ballot who deserve your vote, and it’s an important election for the future of democracy in our state.
Neither John Barrow (D) nor Brad Raffensberger (R) received more than 50 percent of the vote for Georgia secretary of state on November 6, due to votes cast for Libertarian Smythe DuVal. Georgia law requires that candidates receive a majority of votes, not just more votes than any other candidate in the race (the latter system is known as plurality voting). If no one receives more than 50 percent, we go to a run-off, in which voters are far less likely to show up to the polls. One of the two Public Service Commissioner seats (district 3) is also headed to a run-off, between Lindy Miller (D) and incumbent Chuck Eaton (R).
What does the secretary of state do in Georgia?
Well, as many of us learned over the past year, they oversee elections in our state, including voter registration; municipal, state, county, and federal elections; campaign finance disclosure for state and federal candidates and political action committees; and certification of election results. Not happy with how those have been handled in Georgia? Want someone in the position who won’t purge hundreds of thousands of voters from the rolls to help solidify conservative power and boost his own electoral chances?
In an October debate, Raffensberger essentially said that he’d continue Brian Kemp’s practice of purging voters who haven’t voted in a while, while Barrow opposed doing so. Barrow wants to move to paper ballots quickly, to ensure a secure voting system. He also released a statement on November 11 that reads, in part, “Any thing we do that makes it harder than necessary for honest citizens to register, stay registered, or vote undermines their right to vote. I believe that it should be as easy for every Georgia citizen to vote as it is for any Georgia citizen to vote.” Voting isn’t the only thing we can do as citizens, but it’s one of the ways we can hold our elected officials accountable. Kemp shut black and brown people out of this process by targeting them through voter purges, and Raffensberger seems eager to follow in his footsteps.
Believe in transparent government? The secretary of state receives campaign finance disclosure and personal finance disclosure forms from candidates for state offices and ensures that they’re posted online, allowing us to see who’s receiving money from where. They’re also responsible for public records, such as maps, surveys, grants, agency rules and regulations and laws, all of which should also be posted online. Finally, the secretary of state has regulatory functions, administering tests to, issuing licenses for, investigating complaints against and reprimanding people in more than 64 trades and professions; registering and regulating corporations and nonprofits in the state; regulating investment advisors, inspecting pharmacies, and regulating real estate brokers and salespeople. In other words, the office is responsible for consumer protection in many arenas, and a “business-first” conservative who touts his private-sector experience is probably going to continue to put business over individuals.
What about the Public Service Commission (PSC)?
What the heck is it, anyway, and why should you care? In some ways, it probably has more effect on you than any other statewide elected position because its job is to regulate public utilities, which almost everyone uses. In Georgia, that means electric, gas, telecommunications and transportation firms but not water. Members serve six-year terms and, although they have districts, where they are required to live, are all elected statewide. The commission as a whole essentially approves or vetoes the rates that these public utilities can charge as well as establishing and enforcing the standards for quality of service. If Georgia Power wants to add another fee on your electric bill to cover its own mismanagement of the construction costs of the Vogtle nuclear power plant, it has to go in front of the PSC.
According to its own mission (“The mission of the Georgia Public Service Commission is to exercise its authority and influence to ensure that consumers receive safe, reliable and reasonably priced telecommunications, electric and natural gas services from financially viable and technically competent companies.”), the PSC is supposed to look out for consumers, not for big companies, but that hasn’t been how it’s worked out. Lindy Miller would be only one voice out of five members of the PSC, but she would be a step in the right direction toward benefits for people, not corporations. She also believes in infrastructure investment and in green jobs. You can read more about her platform here.
Run-off elections don’t attract the same level of attention as generals, but we’ve seen what increased turn-out can do!
Early voting for the run-off takes place at the Board of Elections (155 E. Washington St., in downtown Athens) November 26 – 30 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at City Hall on November 28 – 30 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and at the Athens-Clarke County Library (on Baxter Street) on November 29 and 30 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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Athens for Everyone
November 19, 2018