Three Republicans running for the Georgia Secretary of State's office pitched their candidacies in near chorus with one another over breakfast with Columbia County's party faithful at Peppermill Restaurant on Oct. 22.
The three Republicans - Fulton County Commission Chairwoman Karen Handel, state Sen. Bill Stephens of Canton and former state Sen. Perry McGuire of Douglasville - conveyed their dismay concerning the performance of current Secretary of State Cathy Cox on issues of voter identification and elections monitoring.
On Oct. 19, U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy of the Rome circuit issued a temporary injunction to stop Georgia from requiring voters to present government-issued photo identification before casting ballots.
The order followed a lawsuit filed by the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and other political action groups against Cox.
The Republicans said Cox did not zealously defend the law in court because of her personal views against the legislation.
"Her job, once the governor signed that legislation (requiring ID to vote), was to work with the counties to get it implemented," Handel said. "She spent her time trying to overturn it in the world of politics and that is unacceptable."
"I was Senate majority leader the last session and made the decision to push the voter ID law through the general assembly," Stephens said.
He said the case will be appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but that it will likely not be decided in time for IDs to be required for the 2006 elections.
Each candidate also said they favored so-called paper trail systems that would produce a receipt or paper ballot when voters cast ballots electronically.
Stephens said he intends to pre-file legislation in November for a three-county trial system to gauge cost and effectiveness of the program, he said.
Columbia County, along with Cobb and Decatur counties, would be used in the trial.
Handel said she favors immediate implementation of statewide receipts, and McGuire said he prefers a printer that would produce an actual ballot voters would sign and hand to elections officials to be counted in the event of a recount.
"We are going to make sure we have the most accurate voter rolls in the nation," McGuire said.
Responding to questions from the audience that such systems amount to unfunded government mandates and that counties would be stuck paying for implementation and state requirements to store ballot receipts for two years, the candidates said a discussion with officials and the public will be essential, but that the public outcry for receipts in the wake of nationwide voter irregularities is strong.
"I don't want to see another level of cost (placed on county taxpayers)," said Lee Muns, the chairman of the Columbia County Republican Party. "But I do want to make sure the people walking through door (to the polls) have a right to walk through the door."
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