Georgia Democrat SOS debate.jpg

Former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, left, and State Rep. Bee Nguyen, right, discus election topics at an Atlanta Press Club debate June 6.

The two are in a June 21 runoff for the Democrat nomination to the seat. 

ATLANTA— Two Democrats in a runoff for Georgia Secretary of State acknowledged Republican incumbent Brad Raffensperger for standing up to former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn 2020 election results.  

But the two candidates, State Rep. Bee Nguyen and former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, said at an Atlanta Press Club debate June 6 they oppose Raffensperger's support of new voting laws that were approved in 2021.  

“The reason why a portion of Republican voters believe that the election was stolen in 2020 is because Republican leadership enabled this to happen,” said Nguyen, later referencing plans to create a division to address election misinformation. “We currently have a Secretary of State who upheld the law but he's running his campaign based on conspiracy theories including the alleged idea that non-citizens are voting which is not true and the alleged idea that Georgians are ballot harvesting, which is not true.”

Nguyen said she went though 2020 voter files and contacted the alleged "fraudulent" voters and confirmed their voter eligibility. 

Raffensperger has focused his campaign on only allowing Georgia citizens to vote in the state’s elections. He avoided a Republican runoff by largely defeating Trump-backed candidate Jody Hice more than 52% of the vote, compared to Hice, a current congressman, who received little more than 33%.  

Raffensperger's support for SB 202, which followed 2020 election conspiracy claims, disenfranchises minorities by the added ID requirement for absentee voting, the two Democrats said.  

“He also is standing up now saying that they need armed security in our polling places, turning them into battleground fields, and we know that the last thing we need is armed guards at any type of polling place because that intimidates people, and it's nothing but another form of voter intimidation,” Dawkins-Haigler said.

Dawkins-Haigler, a Black woman, said she ’s is the candidate that will fight against disenfranchisement and voter suppression.

“It is incumbent upon us to continue to make sure that every single Georgian, no matter their race or ethnicity has that right, knowing that the Republicans continue to change the goalposts and the rules,” she said. “We know that many of my ancestors had to try to pass tests that they could not pass, like trying to count the number of bubbles in a bar or jelly beans in a jar. And now that we have exercised our right to vote, they're now trying to change the rules and adding on extra layers."

Nguyen and Dawkins-Haigler were the top vote-getters in the May 24 Democrat Primary Election for SOS, receiving 44% and 19% of votes, respectively, in the five-person race.  

The two candidates support moving to hand-marked paper ballots as a mean of ensuring voter confidence. 

“It’s actually an issue we can bring Georgians together on both sides of the aisle,” Nguyen said. 

Electronic voting machines, Dawkins-Haigler said, could cause issues in rural areas where broadband access may not be available. 

“Sometimes it could cause the machines to malfunction, that will create long lines in polling places,” Dawkins-Haigler said. 

Dawkins-Haigler credited her 2016 lawsuit challenging the state’s voting machines with the state's move to the Dominion voting machines that now prints  a paper copy of the voter's ballot selections before the ballot is submitted.

Nguyen said she plans to invest funds into voter education, if elected SOS.  

“Voters are often confused by the fast changing and nuanced laws, especially because the Georgia General Assembly continues to make changes to our election laws,” Nguyen said. “That means investing in voter outreach and voter communication so voters know exactly where they need to go to cast their ballot, voters know exactly what the deadlines are around absentee ballot voting, and voters know when elections are being held.”

Aside from supervising and monitoring elections, the SOS is also tasked with providing campaign finance disclosures; managing and preserving public records; providing educational programs about the Capitol; and licensing, monitoring and registering professionals and businesses.

“When someone else is already certified in another state, and they try to come to Georgia to have reciprocity in their licensing— whether that is nurses or whether that is engineers or architects—they sometimes come up with problems,” Hawkins-Haigler said. “We need to have a customer service based oriented Secretary of State's office that understands what how to get people licensed and to how to get people incorporated with their businesses and to give them reincorporate incorporated when it's time for them to have renewal.”  

Nguyen said she plans to remove barriers for entrepreneurs and small business owners and develop ways that they — specifically minority owned businesses — can have access to capital. 

“The same with the licensure division. We agree that we need to invest in the workforce in the state of Georgia, which means expanding license reciprocity, it means expanding interstate compact, it means removing barriers for those who have been part of the criminal legal system so they can obtain occupational licenses,” Nguyen said.

On experience, Nguyen said the majority of her career was spent in the nonprofit sector addressing “failed” policies of the Georgia General Assembly, citing experience at Georgia Policy Institute and New American Leaders.  

Dawkins-Haigler said she has the experience needed for all divisions of the secretary of state role. 

“I have the educational qualifications, the professional qualifications, the expertise in voting rights organizations, as well as nonprofit management as well as corporate America as well as security and exchanges,” she said

Early voting for the June 21 runoff starts Monday, June 13. The winner in the Democrat SOS runoff will face Raffensperger in the November General Election. 

Trending Video

Recommended for you