Former President Jimmy Carter called on Republican candidate for governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, to resign his current position as Georgia’s Secretary of State.
President Carter, who served as governor of Georgia himself before being elected President, wrote a letter to Kemp dated October 22nd which was obtained by the Associated Press. In it, the former president expresses concern over Kemp’s position as overseer of the tight governor’s race which he himself is a candidate in.
Election expert to the election overseer: resign
After leaving the White House in 1981, Jimmy Carter became one of the foremost activists worldwide in the promotion of free, fair, and transparent elections. As a former governor and perhaps Georgia’s most famous living resident, his entry into the race could have real repercussions.
This is the full text of the letter, as reported by the AP:
October 22, 2018
To Secretary of State Brian Kemp:
I have officially observed scores of doubtful elections in many countries, and one of the key requirements for a fair and trusted process is that there be nonbiased supervision of the electoral process.
In Georgia’s upcoming gubernatorial election, popular confidence is threatened not only by the undeniable racial discrimination of the past and the serious questions that the federal courts have raised about the security of Georgia’s voting machines, but also because you are now overseeing the election in which you are a candidate. This runs counter to the most fundamental principle of democratic elections — that the electoral process be managed by an independent and impartial election authority. Other secretaries of state have stepped down while running for election within their jurisdiction, to ensure that officials without a direct stake in the process can take charge and eliminate concerns about a conflict of interest.
In order to foster voter confidence in the upcoming election, which will be especially important if the race ends up very close, I urge you to step aside and hand over to a neutral authority the responsibility of overseeing the governor’s election. This would not address every concern, but it would be a sign that you recognize the importance of this key democratic principle and want to ensure the confidence of our citizens in the outcome.
Jimmy Carter not the only person calling on Kemp to resign
Kemp’s dual role as candidate and election administrator has been an issue in the campaign since he entered the race. Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams has repeatedly called on Kemp to step down as Secretary of State, as his predecessor Karen Handel did before her unsuccessful bid for the governor’s mansion in 2010.
Abrams has also made voter turnout, especially among residents who do not normally vote, central to her election strategy. This, combined with Kemp’s position as Secretary of State, has made the issue of election integrity especially prominent in the campaign.
But Kemp has not only refused to resign his office – he has also refused to recuse himself from overseeing a recount of votes if the election results are especially tight.
When asked about the issue in the first gubernatorial debate on October 23rd, Kemp said that county officials oversee most of the process (before admitting that their results are sent to his office for processing).
In addition to worries about the fair tabulation of votes, over 53,000 Georgias have had their voter registrations questioned by Kemp’s office thanks to the state’s “exact match” law that makes it harder for voters with unusual names to avoid losing the right to vote.
Is a runoff inevitable?
As election day nears, the chances of a runoff election in the Georgia governor’s race are becoming more and more likely. Georgia is one of only two states to require a 50% +1 majority to win elections, and the presence of Libertarian Ted Metz in the race means the chances of an overall winner being decided on November 6th are shrinking.
With a relatively small but dedicated support base, and polling between 1-4%, Metz will be appearing in his second televised debate on Thursday. In no publicly available poll is either Kemp or Abrams predicted to receive over 50% of the vote.
If there is a runoff, Kemp can expect the calls for him to resign to only grow in intensity.