'Definition of a Rigged System' as GOP Candidate for Georgia Governor Commits Massive Purge of Registered Voters

"We need UN election observers in Georgia... the state, not the country."

Stacey Abrams (Wikimedia Commons)

As Georgia's Democratic candidate for governor, Stacey Abrams, called for voters in her state to fight Republican efforts at voter suppression by showing up at polls in large numbers in next month's election, a national grassroots group reported Secretary of State Brian Kemp—also the GOP's gubernatorial candidate—to the Justice Department late Wednesday night for blatantly violating the Voting Rights Act in order to swing the upcoming election in his own favor.

The Democratic Coalition is among those that have expressed outrage over a massive voter purge in the state which has disproportionately affected black voters, just before residents prepare to choose between Abrams—who would be the country's first black female governor—and Kemp himself in the November 6 election.

BREAKING: @TheDemCoalition just reported Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division for Voting Rights Act violations. Kemp’s efforts to suppress Georgia voters in general, especially for his own benefit, won’t be tolerated. Period.

— Scott Dworkin (@funder) October 11, 2018

So the right wing Secretary of State running for Governor can unilaterally terminate the voting rights of tens of thousands of people solely because he presumes they’ll vote against him. Pinochet, Franco, Marcos, Mussolini would be impressed https://t.co/SfCDlSLh4z

— Charles Idelson (@cidelson) October 11, 2018

Definition of a rigged system is the GOP candidate for Gov in Georgia holding the keys to over 50,000 pending voter registrations -- almost all black or brown people -- in a race that is a toss up. Stop Brian Kemp! #shame #StaceyAbrams https://t.co/KQlRsogona

— ilyse hogue (@ilyseh) October 10, 2018

Sure helps your campaign if you can take 53k voters who probably won't vote for you off the rolls >>> https://t.co/GtbhafyaR1 via @TPM

— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) October 10, 2018

Esquire political columnist Charles P. Pierce called the Abrams-Kemp race "ground zero in the battle American democracy," and tweeted that outside observers should be present on Election Day in Georgia to ensure the vote is legitimate—as they would in fledgling democracies overseas.

I am not kidding.
We need UN election observers in Georgia...the state, not the country.

— Charles P. Pierce (@CharlesPPierce) October 10, 2018

An analysis by the Associated Press estimates that Kemp, whose office oversees the state's elections and voter registration, has purged 53,000 registrants from the rolls by exploiting a 2013 "exact match" rule that states voters' application forms must exactly match Georgia's existing state records for every resident. Seventy percent of those registrations now listed as "pending" as a result of the law, the AP found, belong to African-Americans.

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday, Abrams said she was "deeply worried" that many Georgia voters "will be disenfranchised in this election"—by the actions that Kemp has taken.

"I want people to understand that voter suppression has two effects," Abrams said. "One is to stop people from voting, but the other is to scare people out of voting and I do not want them to have the effect on either side."

The voter purge is just Kemp's latest attempt to disenfranchise voters in Georgia, Abrams added, noting that she led a lawsuit against him four years ago over the "exact match" law, forcing his to reinstate 33,000 canceled voter registrations. In August, as Common Dreams reported, the Randolph County Board of Elections rejected the state's proposal to close more than three-quarters of the majority-black county's polling places.

Feels like deja vu: 4 years ago, Kemp tried to keep 40k new voters off the rolls. It took a few years, but we beat him. A few months ago, he tried to close polling places, but we beat him there too. Now he’s at it again, and we’ll beat him - again. 1/2 https://t.co/CDNcPantNE

— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) October 11, 2018

Noting that she plans to continue her earlier legal battle against Kemp's suppression efforts, Abrams urged Georgians to go to the polls in huge numbers as a way to counteract the impact of those whose names have been purged.  

"We have enough registered voters in Georgia to win this election," Abrams said. "We've added new voter registrants, in fact, 250,000 new registrants are on the rolls being processed right now. I want them to recognize that their voices can be the amplification of those who have been told they can't vote."

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Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.