Voter suppression in Georgia takes center stage in gubernatorial race

Cyril Josh Barker | 10/25/2018, 11:27 a.m.

Controversy continues to stir in Georgia as suspicions of voter suppression in the highly contested gubernatorial race become the focus.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is poised to make history if elected in November by becoming the first Black woman elected governor in America. She faces Republican Brian Kemp, who is also Georgia’s secretary of state.

Abrams and her supporters believe Kemp is using his position to change voting laws to work in his favor and keep Black voters and women from casting their ballots. Some 53,000 voter registration applications have been put on hold with approximately 70 percent of those belonging to Black voters.

Georgia passed a law in 2017 dubbed the “exact match law” requiring that a voter’s name on voter rolls match what’s on their state-issued ID. The law has a profound impact on women who might have changed their names after getting married. Since 2012, Kemp has also canceled more than 1.4 million voter registrations.

“Dishonesty, incompetence and voter suppression have no place in the secretary of state’s office, and Brian Kemp should resign immediately so that Georgians can be confident the election will be administered in a fair and competent manner,” Abrams said.

During this week’s gubernatorial debate, Kemp denied using his position to suppress the Black vote and claimed that registration in Georgia is actually up.

“This farce about voter suppression and people being held up from being on the rolls…is absolutely not true,” he said.

The NAACP is monitoring the situation. Wednesday, the organization’s Georgia State Conference President Phyllis T. Blake filed complaints with the State Board of Elections for possible voter suppression tactics regarding malfunctions of the touch screen machines.

“We’ve had a steady stream of reported malfunctions of voting machines and refuse to sit idly by while this election is compromised,” said Blake. “The recent ‘Rachel Maddow Show’ on voter suppression in Georgia highlighted some of the clear conflict of interest issues

surrounding Kemp and his failure to protect the integrity of the vote and democracy in Georgia. We just want him to know the world is watching.”

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said the suppression is reminiscent of tactics used during the Jim Crow era to keep Blacks from voting.

“It’s a stain on our system of democracy when less than a month before an election which could produce the first African-American female governor in our nation’s history we are seeing this type of voter suppression scheme attempted by a state official whose candidacy for the governorship produces an irremediable conflict of interest,” said Johnson.

The NAACP Georgia State Conference earlier this month called for Kemp to step down from office because of possible unethical and conflict of interest issues.

Early voting began in Georgia last Monday and reports indicate that a bus filled with Black senior voters headed to the polls was stopped by county officials. The bus, filled with 40 seniors, was sponsored by Black Voters Matter.

Jefferson County Administrator Adam Brett, who stopped the bus, said that he didn’t feel comfortable with the seniors being brought to the polls by an “unknown third party” and not the senior center.