ATLANTA, GA. - Brian Kemp, the Peach State's Republican candidate for governor, also happens to be Georgia's current secretary of state, responsible for overseeing elections and voter registration in Georgia.
Former state Rep. Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor, along with voting rights advocates in the state, allege that Kemp has carried out a systematic campaign of deliberate voter suppression tactics by purging voter rolls and putting 53,000 voter registrations on hold.
Kemp denies these allegations, and each side makes a compelling case in the controversy, which has become a flashpoint in the historic Georgia gubernatorial election.
Stacey Abrams Alleges Massive Voter Suppression By Kemp's Office
In May 2018 when Abrams won her party's nomination to run for governor, she became the first black woman to be a major party's nominee for governor. An analysis of records obtained by the Associated Press found that a disproportionate number of the Georgia voter registrations on hold are those of black residents:
"Georgia’s population is approximately 32 percent black, according to the U.S. Census, but the list of voter registrations on hold with Kemp’s office is nearly 70 percent black."
In addition to the on-hold voter registrations, the secretary of state's office has drawn scrutiny for cancelling 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012; 670,000 of those cancellations happened in 2017 during the run up to the 2018 election.
Democratic activists say that these cancellations are the result of an overly-rigorous voter registration system that employs "exact match" processing: The system "checks new registration information against driver’s license, state ID card and Social Security records to make sure the submitted information perfectly matches that in state systems. If even an accent or a hyphen is missing from a name, the application gets blocked."
Kemp's Office Says The Voter Registrations Are Incomplete or Illegible
Kemp's office says the proportional disparity of black voters' registration forms cancelled or on hold in the secretary of state's office is the fault of the New Georgia Project, a voter registration campaign founded by Stacey Abrams in 2013.
He says the campaign submitted a batch of invalid voter registration forms that were predominately filled out by black residents, and his office says the New Georgia Project used primarily paper forms, and "did not adequately train canvassers to ensure legible, complete forms." As for the 670,000 voter registrations cancelled last year, Kemp's office states: "All of the affected records were inactive as a result of returned mail, National Change of Address, and ‘no contact’ list maintenance procedures."
Rejected voter registrations generate a mailed letter to the registrant, notifying them that their voter application was rejected due to errors on the form, and giving them 30 days to resubmit a complete and correct voter registration.