By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Rotarians hear from Handel
Georgia's Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel speaks during a recent Rotary Club meeting.
Fresh off a legal victory, Secretary of State Karen Handel visited local Rotarians on Tuesday morning.

Just the day before, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal to the state’s voter identification law. Handel is a strong supporter of the bill that requires every voter to present one of six forms of photo identification.

“I will tell you it works,” she told the Rotary Club of Lanier-Forsyth. “In the past presidential election, 92 percent of the vote was cast in person with a photo ID without a problem.

“That is frankly not so much to my credit. That’s to the credit of people like [local elections official] Gary Smith and the poll workers here in Forsyth County.”

Handel, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010, also briefed Rotarians on her record as secretary of state. She highlighted the fines her office has levied, how she’s worked toward improving checks and balances, and cuts to the department’s budget.

“When I came into office, absentee ballot fraud was a misdemeanor,” she said. “Yet if you committed voter fraud in person, it was a felony.

“I don’t really care if you commit voter fraud in the mail or in person. Fraud is fraud and it should all be a felony ... so we worked with the legislation to get that changed.”

At no point in her speech did Handel address her gubernatorial run.

Rotarian Kevin Tallant said Handel “conveyed a message that she does not want it to be politics as usual.”

“Although I do wish she had talked more about her gubernatorial bid, as opposed to just focusing on what she’s done as the secretary of state, because there is no secret that she is seeking the nomination,” Tallant said. “I did think she was very well spoken and I think she came across well.”

Lately, Handel has been faced with another voting issue. The federal justice department has told the state to stop verifying citizenship of new voters.

She told the group that federal law requires states to collect either a driver’s license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number for first-time voter registrants.

States also are required to match the data to the driver services or Social Security administration databases to “determine if those individuals registering to vote are indeed who they say they are and also that they are citizens of the USA.”

But a voting rights coalition filed a lawsuit shortly before the November election, saying Georgia’s verification process could lead to discrimination against minorities.

The problem, according to the ruling, was that the state didn’t adhere to a section of the voting Rights Act, which requires new voting procedures to be submitted for federal review before they take effect.

The justice department’s decision, Handel said, “opens up the door wide for absolute fraud from the beginning part of the process.”

She said she is waiting for clarification from the department on how to proceed. In the meantime, she has sent out a petition in support of the practice. More than 17,000 residents statewide have signed it so far.