Yesterday, the Associated Press and Talking Points Memo revealed that Georgia Secretary of State and Republican candidate for governor Brian Kemp has prevented 53,000 applicants from being added to the voter rolls - 70% of whom are black and may not even know they have been purged - all to tilt what is sure to be one of the closest elections in the country against Democrat Stacey Abrams, in his favor.
Kemp's office claims they have done this because the applicants ran afoul of his "exact match" program, which demands that a person's voter application look exactly like their record on file in Georgia's Social Security Administration, or Department of Driver Services. That means that if a person gets married and takes on a new name or changes their address without updating their records, they can be prevented from voting. It could even come down to something as small as someone misspelling an applicant's name on their form.
Worse, the person who is purged because of this may not ever know why they've been purged. If they resubmit the same information, they will likely get the same result. Some of them may be allowed to cast provisional ballots, but those often don't get processed. "This has two effects," Abrams said in an appearance on today's Morning Joe. "One is to stop people from voting...the other is to scare people out of voting."
Kemp is one of the most Draconian officials in the country when it comes to curtailing voting rights. He has filed many lawsuits charging citizens with violating voting laws, even though some of these people have done nothing but show first-time voters how to use the state's electronic voting machines (which are some of the most outdated and unsafe in the country.) Since the Supreme Court decided to gut the Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder by eliminating government oversight, he has been given unlimited power to discriminate against voters, shutting down 8% of all Georgia's polling places in the name of "cost-saving measures." However, all of these closures predominantly affected poor, rural, largely black communities.
In 2014, Abrams started New Georgia Project, a group whose goal was to register 800,000 young and minority voters by the end of the decade. Although Kemp's office sent volunteers to assist in training her group, Republicans became terrified that it could upend their balance of power, since polling for that election was very tight. That September Kemp subpoenaed NGP, citing voter fraud. Although only about a dozen applications were found to be fraudulent, the damage was done - the Republicans held on to power.
Kemp's spokespeople have said he has processed over 6.4 million voter registrations since he took office in 2012, and to his credit, he has done a few good things in power, like creating online and phone app registration, and expanding vote-by-mail laws. But this does not counteract the fact that he has purged more than one million voters from the rolls during his time in office.
Georgia's state legislature is likely to remain Republican, and its current governor, Nathan Deal, has stopped some of their more controversial measures, like transgender bathroom bans. Kemp won his primary in part on his promise to uphold the ban, and if he is elected, they will have unchecked power to make the state a Republican stronghold for at least another generation.
Fortunately, Abrams and the Democrats are aware of these stakes, having already sent out more than a million absentee ballots to likely supporters. She has also spoken about her desire to pass fairer voting laws if elected. Most importantly, she told her fans and supporters on Morning Joe that there are now 250,000 new voters on the rolls - enough, she claims, to win her the election.
"I want them to recognize that their voices can be the amplifcation of those who have been told they can't vote," she said, "so I don't want [them] to get scared from voting...We need every Georgia voter of good conscience to step up and vote for those who have been told they cannot."