Secretary of State Brian Kemp declares victory in the Republican primary for governor in July 2018 in Athens, Georgia.Jessica McGowan/Getty Images
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Tens of thousands of would-be voters in Georgia have had their voter registrations put on hold, threatening their ability to cast a ballot in November, due to a policy implemented by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is also the Republican candidate in next month’s election for governor. Of the 53,000 applications in limbo, 70 percent are from African Americans, according to an investigation by the Associated Press, even though Georgia is approximately 32 percent black.
Kemp’s office implemented an “exact match” policy, which requires information provided in a voter’s registration application to match up exactly with that person’s existing information in either the state’s Department of Driver Services database or the Social Security Administration’s records. A dropped hyphen in a last name or a middle initial instead of a middle name is enough to put an application on hold. The policy, which Kemp has carried out in different forms for years, has a history of disproportionately flagging and disenfranchising minority voters.
Kemp’s office blamed a voter registration group founded by Stacey Abrams, his Democratic opponent for governor, rather than his own office’s protocols, according to the AP:
Kemp accuses the organization of being sloppy in registering voters, and says they submitted inadequate forms for a batch of applicants that was predominantly black. His office has said the New Georgia Project used primarily paper forms and “did not adequately train canvassers to ensure legible, complete forms…”
His office says “the law applies equally across all demographics,” but these numbers became skewed by “the higher usage of one method of registration among one particular demographic group.”
Voters whose applications are frozen in “pending” status have 26 months to fix any issues before their application is canceled, and can still cast a provisional ballot.
Polls show the race between Abrams and Kemp is neck-and-neck. Abrams is relying on voters of color and young people to turn out in large numbers to vote for her. Kemp’s office has made that more difficult by implementing a policy that is stalling the registrations for thousands of black voters.
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