In politics, people run for various offices for a wide variety of reasons. Over the years, some politicians have viewed the job of Secretary of State as a place to park yourself until something better comes along. That doesn’t describe me.
I didn’t decide to run for Secretary of State because I thought it would be the easiest statewide office for me to win. I also didn’t run for Secretary of State so I could have something to do until another office opens up. I want to do the job of Secretary of State because I think it’s important, and I think I could do a good job for the people of Georgia.
I have goals I want to accomplish as Secretary of State. I won’t jump ship at the first opportunity. If the voters and the Lord allow, I’ll stay Secretary of State until we have the best, most secure election system, and are considered the easiest place to do business in America.
I have a passion for the elections process and want to see our elections system be the best in the world. We have the expertise right here in our state to make that possible.
We should all be proud that Georgia is consistently rated as one of the best places to do business in the United States, but it’s not enough. I want Georgia to be the easiest place to do business, not just the best. If it’s a hassle to start a business, renew your corporation, or obtain a professional license, we’re not doing our jobs.
As Secretary of State, I’ll wake up every day and work to make it easier for you to start your own business, easier to renew your corporation annually, easier to obtain a professional license in your chosen profession, and easier to make your voice heard in our political process through voting.
Our voting machines are old and outdated. The next Secretary of State must lead the effort to purchase new voting machines. This gives us a tremendous opportunity to modernize and streamline our elections process. As Secretary of State I would do four main things to accomplish this:
The first thing I would do would be to end the two month runoff period. By allowing overseas military voters to use an instant runoff system (aka ranked choice voting), we can shorten the length of the runoff to one month, instead of the lengthy two month runoff we have currently. Other states use instant runoffs for overseas and military ballots, and there’s no reason we can’t do this too.
Second, I would begin the process of purchasing new voting machines and modernizing our entire elections system. Our machines are old, outdated, and have no verifiable backup system. This won’t be cheap but if we want to instill confidence in our elections system, we must spend the money to purchase new machines with verifiable backup.
Third: We must keep out voter lists clean. Only citizens should be allowed to vote. Federal and state law requires us to regularly and securely maintain our voter lists. Currently Georgia participates in a program to compare voter lists with 30 other states, looking for people registered to vote in more than one state. We need to continue to do this. Georgia must also look for voters who have moved by using the Postal Service’s change of address request database, and work with the Social Security Administration to determine voters who have passed away. Maintaining clean voter lists is hard work, but essential to protecting the rights of citizens to participate in our elections.
Fourth: As you are all aware, a couple of years ago there was an accidental release of the database containing the names and social security numbers of all registered voters in Georgia. There’s nothing in Georgia or Federal law that requires the Secretary of State’s office to keep social security numbers as part of the voter database. Federal law requires we keep the last four digits, but nothing more. As Secretary of State I’ll purge the database of full social security numbers, keeping only the last four digits. This will make our data less appealing to hackers, and the consequences of accidental release much less harmful. Additionally, the FBI is investigating a possible data breach at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University. It appears as if a vendor gained access to something he should not have. Politico had an article about this recently that indicated a shocking lack of control over our data. To be blunt, if KSU can’t protect our data, we need to find someone who will.
Fifth: I would vehemently oppose any attempt to manipulate our elections system for partisan advantage. What we saw in the recent 6th Congressional district special election was outrageous, with lawsuits that changed the rules in the middle of the game, and the DeKalb elections board opening new early voting sites in Democratic areas for the runoff only. We need a Secretary of State who will fight against any and every effort to manipulate the rules for partisan advantage, no matter which party engages in it.
The Secretary of State’s office oversees most of Georgia’s professional licensing boards. Many of these licenses are important to protect the public from harm or fraud. However, we’ve seen a trend in recent years of professional licenses being used as a barrier to competition rather than merely to protect the public. Fortunately we have a mechanism already in existence to sort out what requirements are necessary from those that are not. The Georgia Occupational Regulation Review Council has been given two tasks: inform the Legislature on the necessity of a new proposed professional license and periodically review the continued need to license certain professions. They have not been performing these periodic reviews as the law requires. In an effort to draw attention to this, I introduced HR 744, calling on the Regulatory Review Council to do what the law requires. I’m hopeful we can pass this resolution next year.
Why is this important? For one simple reason: jobs. If we continue to make it harder for people to enter a given profession, we’re making it harder for people to support their families and live the kind of life they want to live.