Election 2016

Grassroots Organization Accuses Republican Official of Massive Voter Suppression in Georgia

Some 50,000 unprocessed registrations may tip the balance in a tight Senate race.

Photo Credit: Portrait of Stacey Abrams by Kerri Battles

The Senate race between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue is tight, according to the most recent polling. But 50,000 mysteriously unprocessed registrations can possibly tip the scale in the Republican’s favor in both November and a likely January runoff.

The latest CNN/ORC International Poll has Nunn leading Perdue by three points, 47%-44%, but if neither candidate garners more than 50% of the vote on November 4 (the libertarian candidate is polling at 5%), there will be a runoff election between the two top vote getters.

While it’s possible that the 50,000 registrations, mostly collected in African-American districts, could theoretically keep Nunn from receiving more than 50% in the Nov. 4 election, it’s even more worrisome that it could tip the scales in favor of Perdue in January after Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford is eliminated from that ballot.

According to the AP, community organizers canvassed African-American communities, which undoubtedly lean Democratic, earlier this year in an effort to register those who have never voted in the past, focusing on younger voters. Canvassers collected and documented 86,000 new voter registrations and turned and turned them into county boards of election.

But when organizers went to see how those registrations were progressing late this summer, they found 50,000 of had not been processed, and with no explanation from Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State. According to organizers, most the registrations came from African Americans living in the Atlanta, Savannah, and Columbus regions.

Organizers with the New Georgia Project, which gathered the voter registration forms, are taking their fight to Georgia’s courts, demanding that those 50,000 individuals be allowed to vote. Kemp’s office, it appears, has not processed 40,000 of those names and is listing another 10,000 as “pending.”

The New Georgia Project, which is a non-partisan organization, is getting help from civil rights groups and lawyers in this battle against Kemp and several Georgia counties. Rev. Raphael G. Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church, one the project’s organizers, is openly accusing Kemp of voter suppression. Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, an Atlanta Democrat who leads the project, is demanding that those the group registered be allow to vote immediately or be given a valid explanation as to why they’re being denied.

"We want them to process forms as the law requires, and then document a reason for any applicant being denied registration, with that person being informed in writing as to why they aren't eligible," says Abrams.

Kemp told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that the lawsuit is "frivolous and without merit." He claims that all valid applications have been processed and that it’s time for the group and others “to stop throwing out random numbers and baseless accusations and let the counties continue to do their jobs."

Kemp also alleges that the group submitted forged applications. His office has says it found 50 forgeries, an infinitesimal fraction of the votes collected by the group. Also, upon reviewing the list of names in question, Georgia election officials maintain that they discovered 513 names matching deceased individuals,1,637 that match felons that are ineligible to vote, 2,124 listed no birth date, 2,195 had ineligible ZIP codes, and 39,276 were already registered.

In addition to the Senate race, the missing registrations could possibly have an impact on the the governor's race between GOP Gov. Nathan Deal and his Democratic challenger,  State Senator Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.

Early voting has already begun in Georgia, but a court will only decide this week whether these newly registered votes can cast ballots in two weeks.

Cliff Weathers is a former senior editor at AlterNet and served as a deputy editor at Consumer Reports. Twitter @cliffweathers.


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