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Election chief runoff, court-ordered redo on Georgia ballots

December 1, 2018

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Nearly a month after the midterms, Georgia voters are needed back at the polls to hire a new state elections chief. A hotly contested race for the state panel that regulates electric utilities needs settling. And a primary election for a state lawmaker’s seat held six months ago must be done over again after mapping mistakes tainted the original vote.

Only a few races appear on runoff ballots Tuesday, but the top contests have gotten more attention than usual. Lingering disputes over the fairness of Georgia’s nationally watched November election for governor have boosted the profile of the runoff race for secretary of state.

Likewise, controversy over the escalating cost of expanding a nuclear power plant in Georgia has raised the stakes in a runoff for a seat on the Public Service Commission.

Here’s a look at the key races on Georgia ballots.

SECRETARY OF STATE

Republican Gov.-elect Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams, his Democratic rival, aren’t on the ballot this time around. Still, the runoff contest for Kemp’s previous job as secretary of state has played out against a backdrop of accusations by Democrats that Kemp suppressed turnout among minority voters to improve his odds of victory.

Republican state Rep. Brad Raffensperger faces former Democratic congressman John Barrow in the runoff.

Both candidates say they want to replace Georgia’s aging electronic voting machines with a new system that includes an auditable paper trail. Meanwhile, Raffensperger promises to continue tough enforcement of Georgia’s voter ID law and frequent cullings of inactive voters from the rolls. Barrow says Georgia should err on the side of improving access to the polls.

Those watching the race beyond Georgia include President Donald Trump, who tweeted an endorsement of Raffensperger. Barrow won the support of Smythe DuVal, the Libertarian candidate in the Nov. 6 general election.

DuVal finished in a distant third place last month. But he won enough votes to keep Raffensperger and Barrow from surpassing the 50-percent vote threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

A Republican member of Georgia’s Public Service Commission is struggling to keep his seat amid growing concerns over the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Incumbent Chuck Eaton of Atlanta faces Democrat Lindy Miller of Decatur in a runoff for the commission’s District 3 seat. The district covers four counties in metro Atlanta, but commission members are elected statewide.

The expansion of Plant Vogtle near Augusta is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. Eaton and fellow commissioners have supported allowing the project to continue. Critics fear Georgia Power and its partners will ultimately make customers pay for the cost overruns.

Those seeking to oust Eaton over the plant Vogtle controversy include Debbie Dooley, a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party, who has been urging voters to support Miller.

Hoping to keep conservatives in his corner, Eaton recently focused on his opposition to abortion — an issue far outside the PSC’s utility regulating function — in a recorded phone message sent to voters.

PRIMARY DO-OVER

Amid the runoffs, one Georgia primary election is being redone after a judge found the original vote in May was tainted by errors.

State Rep. Dan Gasaway faces fellow Republican Chris Erwin in a primary do-over Tuesday in Georgia’s northeast corner. Gasaway’s 28th House District seat includes about half of Habersham County as well as Banks and Stephens counties.

The candidates first clashed in the May 22 primary, which Erwin appeared to win by 67 votes. But a Superior Court judge ordered a new election after Habersham County officials acknowledged mapping mistakes led to some voters being assigned to the wrong House district.

No Democrats ran for the seat. That means whoever prevails in this second round of GOP primary voting will be sworn in when the legislature reconvenes in January.

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