"I think this — besides the governor's race — is the most important," Dr. Dan Hanks said Tuesday when Brad Raffensperger spoke at the monthly meeting of the Floyd County Republican Women.
The Democrat in the race, John Barrow, held a meet-and-greet fundraiser at the Rome Area History Museum last week and stopped by the Rome News-Tribune.
"This is probably the most important job nobody knows anything about," Barrow said.
Libertarian Smythe Duval, a registered nurse who works in the medical IT field, is also on the ballot.
Raffensperger, a state House representative and owner of an engineering design firm, told the 40 or so local Republicans he is running for three reasons.
"No. 1 is to make sure only Americans vote," he said to an outburst of applause. "No. 2 is to make sure Georgia is a great place to find a job and, No. 3, a great place to open a business."
In addition to overseeing elections, the secretary of state is responsible for business registrations and professional licensing along with regulating securities sales and charity fundraising.
Barrow, an attorney and former U.S. congressman, said the job is "more of a management position" than a political one and the customer service is vital to the business community.
The elections responsibility, however, is "the lightning rod for the office," Raffensperger noted.
All three candidates agree it's time to replace Georgia's electronic voting machines with a system that has a verifiable paper trail. Raffensperger emphasized voter ID as the key to safe and fair elections; Barrow put his focus on improving cyber security.
"It's never been easier to vote in Georgia, but it's also never been easier for folks to be left off the rolls because of some glitch," Barrow said.
Whoever is elected will be in office during the 2020 census, and the subsequent redistricting was on both men's minds.
Barrow wants an independent commission to draw the voting district maps to eliminate partisan gerrymandering. Raffensperger said lines drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature are more compact than the sprawling districts created when Democrats were in power.
"I don't support an unelected board handling it," Raffensperger said. "I think it needs to stay with the General Assembly. They'll get it right."
Raffensperger will be back in Rome Wednesday for a fundraiser at a private residence.