Allegations of voter suppression are grabbing headlines in the tight race for governor in Georgia. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp is running against Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who, if elected, could become the state’s first Black female governor and the first Black female governor in U.S. history.
Activists are suing Kemp because about 53,000 voter registration applications have been put on hold. The majority of those applications belong to Black residents. Stacey Abrams, 44, a former Democratic leader of the Georgia state House, has built her campaign around registering and mobilizing tens of thousands of new voters, focusing on people of color and young people, groups that vote at low rates and are usually virtually absent during midterm elections. In recent days, her campaign has blasted Kemp, who is Georgia’s secretary of state, after the Associated Press reported that the voter registrations of 53,000 Georgians– 70% OF THEM AFRICAN AMERIACANS – had been frozen because information on their applications did not exactly match information in motor vehicle and Social Security records.
Some discrepancies are as simple as a dropped hyphen in a name or a transposed number in an address. Kemp also has been criticized for aggressively purging Georgia’s voter rolls, removing more than 1.4 million names since 2012. Ms. Abrams has repeatedly called for Mr. Kemp to resign as the state’s top elections official to avoid a conflict of interest. She accused him of disenfranchising minorities for years, including his office’s latest effort, suspending the processing of the 53,000 voter registrations, mainly African-Americans. It fits “a pattern of behavior where he tries to tilt the playing field in his favor,” Ms. Abrams said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
A new poll by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Atlanta’s Channel 2 showed that the race is a statistical dead heat. Kemp had the support of 47.7 percent of likely voters to 46.3 percent for Abrams. The poll of 1,232 has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points. If neither candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote in November, a runoff will be held in December to determine the state’s next governor. Civil rights groups including the Georgia NAACP has filed a joint lawsuit against Kemp alleging the policy, which was signed into law last year, has been “shown to disproportionately and negatively impact the ability of voting-eligible African-American, Latino and Asian-American applicants to register to vote.”