Former President Jimmy Carter, a Georgia native, wrote a letter to GOP gubernatorial nominee Brian Kemp asking him to step down as secretary of state and hand off oversight of the state’s elections to someone else since he is currently running for governor of the state.
“In Georgia’s upcoming gubernatorial election, popular confidence is threatened not only by the undeniable racial discrimination of the past and the serious questions that the federal courts have raised about the security of Georgia’s voting machines, but also because you are now overseeing the election in which you are a candidate,” Carter wrote in a letter to Kemp dated October 22.
His letter to Kemp came as the Republican has received sweeping criticism for his oversight of the elections this year and faces accusations of suppressing the minority vote. Kemp’s Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, has likewise called for him to resign ahead of the election this November.
Carter added, “In order to foster voter confidence in the upcoming election, which will be especially important if the race ends up very close, I urge you to step aside and hand over to a neutral authority the responsibility of overseeing the governor’s election.”
Carter is a former Democratic governor of Georgia and, as he noted in his letter, has observed elections around the world since the end of his presidency.
A coalition of civil rights groups moved to sue Kemp earlier this October to block enforcement of an “exact match” requirement that they said endangered more than 50,000 voters, most of whom are African Americans.
Kemp released a statement amid the criticism saying, “While outside agitators disparage this office and falsely attack us, we have kept our head down and remained focused on ensuring secure, accessible, and fair elections for all voters.”
“The fact is that it has never been easier to register to vote and get engaged in the electoral process in Georgia, and we are incredibly proud to report this new record,” the statement said.
Should he remain in office through the election, Kemp’s role would likely take on sustained attention if neither he nor Abrams secures a majority of the vote after polls close on Election Day. Georgia has a majority rule with a runoff voting system, meaning if neither candidate takes a majority of the vote, the two alone will compete in a runoff election.
Asked in a debate about the prospect of a recount, Kemp said he would not recuse himself from election oversight.
“We’ve got a very competent elections team to oversee that (recount) process,” Kemp said.
CNN’s Marylynn Ryan and Gregory Krieg contributed to this report.