Voting in Georgia’s potentially historic gubernatorial election somehow just got considerably more complicated for tens of thousands of voters.
The Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams, is running against Republican Brian Kemp for governor in what’s become a highly competitive race worthy of the national attention it’s spawned. Unfortunately for Kemp, with that attention has come complaints of voter registration issues, issues that he, or at least his office, have to answer for.
While Kemp is gunning for the top statewide office, he currently holds the position of secretary of state. In that role, Kemp and the GOP have backed some of the strictest voter registration laws in the nation, regulations that have almost systematically targeted people of color across the state. The main culprit here is House Bill 268's “exact match” stipulation that was pushed through Georgia’s state legislature in 2017, a law that mandates a voter’s information must be precisely the same on all federal and state forms. In practice, as Reuters reported by in April, this means something as small as a missing hyphen can prevent you from voting.
Georgia’s deadline to register was Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that 53,000 Georgians are currently in limbo, as Kemp’s office has not responded or sorted out the tens of thousands of voters still “on hold” after election officials flagged their applications. Among other duties, Kemp’s office is in charge of handling requests filed by citizens who have been stripped from the voting rolls.
Per the AP, Kemp’s office has cancelled the registrations of upwards of 1.4 million voters; in 2017 alone, his office nixed 670,000 voters. To balance this narrative out, Kemp has claimed that “while outside agitators disparage this office and falsely attack us,” a record number of voters are registered to vote in Georgia; never mind that that fact is almost certainly a byproduct of the state boasting the sixth-largest population increase in the nation last year.
When reached by the wire service, Kemp blamed sloppy voter registration efforts by Abrams and the New Georgia Project, an initiative she founded in 2013 that aimed to register scores of previously inactive black voters across the state. The group focused its effort in gerrymandered rural areas where black citizens make up a third of the population but have been discouraged from participating for decades, or basically since they were granted the ability to vote. Kemp’s office told the AP that Abrams and NGP “did not adequately train canvassers to ensure legible, complete forms.”
Kemp did so because otherwise it looks extremely suspect and also racist that 70 percent—or 37,100—of the excluded voters are black, according to records obtained by the AP. Also, it’s much easier to say, as Kemp has, that the public records show little more than that “it’s high time for another frivolous lawsuit from liberal activist groups.”
You know what they say—if it looks like racially targeted voter suppression and it smells like racially targeted voter suppression, well then it just might be a “frivolous lawsuit from liberal activist groups.”