ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has named a retired federal judge to chair the state election board, filling a position that opened more than a year ago when Kemp signed a new election bill that would designate Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as Voter deposed member of five-member body.
Kemp on Friday announced William S. Duffey Jr. for the post, which is expected to be non-partisan under the 2021 law. Republican Kemp held off for more than a year to make an election, and the state legislature, which could have filled the vacancy during its 2022 session, also chose not to act.
Duffey joins a board of three Republicans and one Democrat. It is responsible for making rules for state elections and recommending what to do with people who break rules and laws.
Republican lawmakers included Republican Raffensperger’s impeachment in a section of the expansive election law, in part because they were dissatisfied with his conduct of the 2020 election. For example, a decision to send absentee ballots to all registered voters angered House Speaker David Ralston. Kemp approved the General Assembly decision, though both Kemp and Raffensperger were fired upon by former President Donald Trump for failing to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia.
Although Raffensperger was removed from voting rights, his employees continue to serve as employees of the board, giving him significant influence over board activities.
Kemp said in a statement that Duffey “has established himself as a man of integrity who will uphold the highest ethical standards in applying the laws of our state and nation.”
“I am confident that Justice Duffey will be a great asset to our state and will help ensure our elections are safe, accessible and fair,” Kemp said.
Duffey was appointed a federal judge in the Northern District of Georgia by Republican President George W. Bush in 2004 and served until he retired from active duty in 2018. Prior to that, Duffey was selected by Bush to be the U.S. Attorney for the same district. Duffey was also Bush’s president of campaign finance for Georgia.
The law states that a chairman of the state elections board may not actively participate in politics or donate money to candidates during his term of office or in the two years prior to his term of office.
From 1994 to 1995, Duffey was a deputy to Kenneth Starr, investigating Bill and Hillary Clinton and overseeing the Arkansas portion of the Whitewater Inquiry. Before and after he was a partner at King & Spalding, based in Atlanta, where he worked on internal corporate investigations, among other things.
Duffey said in a statement he will “protect the integrity of the election process because every voter in Georgia has the right to know that their vote is safe and that it counts.”