Two special elections will decide the fate of black people in Louisiana and Georgia.
While most states across the union voted on their senatorial and gubernatorial candidates on November 6, election season is still underway as two states, Georgia and Louisiana, prepare for special elections for their Secretary of State – the person who will be in charge of their states future elections. Voting will take place in the two states on December 4 and December 8 respectively.
In Georgia residents of the Sunshine State decide between Democrat, John Barrow, and Republican, Brad Raffensperger, one of whom will replace former Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, who resigned from the position after he won a fiercely contested gubernatorial bid. In Louisiana, Interim Secretary of State, Kyle Ardoin, is up against Gwen Collins-Greenup, who, if she wins, will become Louisiana’s first female Secretary of State since 1932 and the second ever in the state’s history.
Both races offered early voting, with Georgia’s early voting period ending on Friday, November 30 and Louisiana’s ending a day after on Saturday, December 1. As important as the Secretary of State position is, the races often fly under the radar – until now. With the nation hyper-sensitized from attempts at voter suppression during the past elections, the Secretary of State role will be watched more closely than before.
Referred to as Secretary of the Commonwealth in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia, the Secretary of State is a state level position in each state, with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii and Utah, where the role does not exist.
So, what exactly does a state’s Secretary of State do? The answer is several things. While the specific duties defer from state to state, the position is typically the main body in charge of keeping state records such as constitutions, legislative acts and executive orders. They also authenticate business entities and trademarks, track civil records such as birth and marriage certificates, commission and regulate notary publics.
But aside from administrative duties, they primarily serve as the chief election officer. This sole distinction as the main overseer of elections caused NAACP to call out Brian Kemp’s run for Governor, while still maintaining his role as Secretary of State, as a conflict of interest. And leading up until election day, there were multiple accounts of voter suppression coming out of the state of Georgia, and because of NAACP intervention, voting was extended for certain precincts in Atlanta.
“As we look to December 4, the last thing Georgia needs is a Secretary of State that will conduct ‘business as usual,’” said Phyllis Blake, NAACP Georgia State Conference President. “The amount of voter suppression that happened in Georgia was alarming and unacceptable, and moving forward, we need a Secretary of State that will abandon partisan politics and focus on ensuring that every vote matters and that every vote is counted.”
President Blake’s comments ring true for Louisiana as well. News reports claim that many of Louisiana campaigns were underfunded and lacked advertising, leaving many voters in the dark about who candidates are. For many, with the holiday season coming to a climax in December, the best gift voters can give themselves is to elect officials who can secure free and fair elections for many years to come.