Voting is expensive.

The cost of running an election in Georgia, whether it is local or statewide, can be staggering.

Gov. Brian Kemp baked millions into the state budget this year to replace Georgia’s aging electronic voting machines.

It is money that has to be spent to safeguard elections in our state.

District 174 state Rep. John Corbett explained the importance of replacing the machines in a column he wrote previously this year: “The machines you and I are used to voting on presented a problem — we couldn’t see our votes after they were cast.”  

Several lawmakers supported the notion of buying machines that generate an auditable paper trail so every voter can make sure the vote they cast is the vote they intended to cast.

No one wants a repeat of the 2001 hanging chad debacle in Florida.  

Of course, safeguarding elections goes beyond purchasing new voting machines.

Voting must be secure, accessible and fair to all.

The Georgia Secretary of State is charged with organizing and overseeing Georgia elections.

That includes everything from voter registration to the execution of municipal, state, county and federal elections.

The Secretary of State Office is then responsible for the certification of each election.

The office must also certify the qualifications of candidates and maintain a statewide voter registration database and ensure that voter registration lists are current statewide.

It is also the Secretary of State’s responsibility to investigate election fraud and enforce state election laws.

Politics should have no place in the oversight of our electoral process.

State lawmakers should do all that they can do to foster an environment for open, free and robust elections. When the General Assembly codified “exact match” legislation, it damaged Georgia elections and made it harder, not easier, for legally, registered voters to cast a vote. It has also resulted in costly lawsuits.

Perhaps even more concerning are efforts by local election commissions to close polling places.

The most egregious example was a failed attempt to close seven of the nine voting precincts in Randolph County. The small Georgia county is rural, poor and mostly black. Any lawmaker or local election official should see the implications.

The Secretary of State should be out in front of any of these kinds of things, moving forward, to help make sure that all legally, registered voters in Georgia have easy access and are encouraged to cast a ballot.

CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is CNHI’s regional editor for its Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Texas newspapers and editor of the Valdosta Daily Times. He is vice president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

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