Georgia — a state that has been wracked with allegations of voter suppression and election security issues in recent years — just got significantly more important for the 2020 map.
With the announcement that Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) will retire this year due to health issues, the state will hold a special election in 2020 to replace him. This will be in addition to the reelection race for Sen. David Perdue (R), whose term is expiring.
One or both of those races might prove key to Democrats’ efforts to retake the Senate in 2020.
Defeating Perdue was always going to be a stretch for Democrats, given the advantage typically held by incumbents (especially one of President Trump’s favorites), as well as Stacey Abrams’ decision not to challenge him.
But the odds for Democrats are at least a little better in a race for an open seat, particularly if they can recruit a top-tier candidate to jump in. (Abrams herself has already turned down the opportunity).
Whatever happens, it’s guaranteed that Georgia is about to get more scrutiny for the election issues it’s had in the past.
Gov. Brian Kemp (R), as secretary of state, was overseeing his own election in 2018. He has long been accused of voter suppression tactics, and he was sued in the 2018 race over two differentelection protocols he implemented.
He was also accused of ignoring concerns about election security as he doubled down on using electronic-only voting machines, which lack an an auditable paper trail — prompting yet another lawsuit.
A federal judge this year reamed the state for its “unsecure, unreliable and grossly outdated” election technology and ordered that it institute back-up paper ballots that can be verified in 2020. But still lingering is a mystery over an irregularity in the 2018 lieutenant governor election: compared to the governor’s race, there was a 4 percent drop-off in the electronic votes cast for lieutenant governor candidates vs. just a 2 percent drop-off in the other down-ballot statewide races
There could be a relatively benign explanation for the discrepancy – a change in ballot design was a theory put forward in an Atlanta Journal Constitution story Wednesday. But because the 2018 election remains inauditable and the state has refused to investigate, speculation swirls about whether something more disturbing was at play.
Georgia Democrats had already hired a voter protection director amid all these issues. Given Wednesday’s news of Isakson’s resignation, I bet they’re glad they did.