Inside Georgia Dems' 'voter protection' war

Tensions are high amid allegations of voter suppression in Georgia as the neck-and-neck race for governor nears. CNN's Kaylee Hartung has the details.

Posted: Oct 16, 2018 6:58 PM
Updated: Oct 16, 2018 7:12 PM

How's this for an axiom that is especially self-evident: An elected official should not oversee an election in which he is a candidate.

Tell that to Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, who is also the Georgia secretary of state and whose major responsibility is overseeing Georgia's elections, including maintaining voter registration lists and certifying election results.

Kemp is in a close race against Stacey Abrams, the first black woman to win a major party's gubernatorial nomination. Kemp's decision to continue wearing his election-overseer hat even as he runs for office created an obvious conflict of interest, which he has brazenly exploited.

Last Monday, the Associated Press reported that Kemp's office is blocking 53,000 voter registration applications. The applications were all flagged by Georgia's "exact match" voter verification process, which was implemented by the state legislature last year. Under exact match, the information listed on voter application must exactly match information as it is listed either in a state driver's license database or the federal Social Security database. Even the smallest discrepancy -- a typo or a missing hyphen, for instance -- can result in a hold on an application.

Proponents of exact match insist that it protects the integrity of Georgia's elections. In fact, it does the opposite. The system disproportionately burdens voters of color; nearly 70% of the blocked applications belong to African Americans, who by contrast make up only 32% of the state's population. Far from ensuring a fair election, Kemp's actions have effectively disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters -- many of whom, not coincidentally, are likely to vote for his opponent.

That's why while a wide range of groups and public officials -- including the NAACP Georgia State Conference, former Senator Max Cleland, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, and my organization, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund -- have called upon Kemp to either resign as secretary of state or recuse himself from any further involvement in election oversight. Several other groups have sued to end exact match.

Kemp's claims that exact match is a neutral election protection mechanism ring especially hollow given his long and fraught history using this device. He implemented a version of the exact match system shortly after becoming secretary of state in 2010. In 2016, a group of civil rights organizations sued Kemp after it was revealed that exact match had resulted in the rejection of nearly 35,000 voter registrations -- most of them from minority applicants -- between 2013 and 2015.

Kemp's office agreed to settle the suit; as part of the agreement, exact match was retired.

Just a year later, however, the GOP-controlled state legislature passed its own version of exact match, despite the recent lawsuit and despite repeated warnings from civil rights groups. In other words, the legislature had ample warning that its proposed policy would discriminate against voters of color. It passed the policy anyway.

On one hand, the legislature's revival of exact match -- and Kemp's zealous use of it to his own benefit -- represent a shocking exercise of nakedly partisan power, one that flies in the face of both laws and norms. But on the other hand, the scene playing out in Georgia is dismayingly familiar. It is the latest offensive in the renewed campaign against minority voting rights.

That campaign began with the Supreme Court's disastrous 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which crippled the Justice Department's ability to preemptively stop discriminatory state voting policies before they could take effect. After Shelby County, three states -- Texas, Alabama and North Carolina -- rushed to implement restrictive voter ID laws. (I argued against the Texas law before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and we are challenging Alabama's photo ID law in another circuit.)

Even in jurisdictions not previously covered by the provision of the Voting Rights Act that the Shelby County decision disabled, voter-suppression tactics have run rampant. Ohio began purging tens of thousands of voters from its rolls simply for sitting out an election; after years of litigation, the Supreme Court gave this practice the green light in June.

Just last week, the Supreme Court declined to overturn North Dakota's voter ID law, which disallows post office boxes as valid addresses, threatening the franchise of American Indians living on reservations, many of whom don't use physical street addresses. And the list goes on.

In each of these instances, as well as in Georgia, lawmakers who support these laws and policies say that they simply want to prevent voter fraud. But -- and this cannot be emphasized often enough -- there is no credible evidence to support widespread voter fraud. That hasn't stopped the likes of Brian Kemp and President Trump from repeating the voter-fraud myth.

Since 2012, Kemp's office has cancelled over 1.4 million voter registrations. Nearly 670,000 registrations were cancelled in 2017 alone -- the same year Kemp announced his candidacy. LDF and other civil rights groups have had to beat back polling site closures, limits on early voting and discriminatory voter registration maintenance in Georgia and across the country leading up to next month's midterms.

There's reason to hope that courts will remedy the situation in Georgia before Election Day. But that outcome, though welcome, would not end the larger assault on minority voting rights in the United States. Until the American people see that assault for what it is -- a threat to our democracy as grave as any foreign meddling -- the struggle to secure every American's right to vote will continue.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 67649

Reported Deaths: 1912
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5613118
DeSoto365831
Harrison252036
Madison242266
Rankin228334
Jackson227642
Jones189958
Forrest180656
Washington166341
Lee146241
Lauderdale141292
Neshoba128692
Lamar122014
Oktibbeha112239
Bolivar111334
Warren109333
Lowndes107737
Panola105913
Sunflower103925
Scott100320
Lafayette97316
Copiah95428
Pike93636
Leflore93363
Holmes89248
Grenada84721
Yazoo83112
Pontotoc8278
Lincoln81741
Monroe79655
Simpson79630
Leake78825
Wayne76721
Coahoma76013
Tate73429
Marshall6959
Marion67720
Union63616
Adams62325
Winston62016
Covington61213
George5815
Pearl River55039
Newton54211
Tallahatchie53110
Attala52225
Walthall50220
Chickasaw46219
Noxubee45711
Alcorn4285
Calhoun4189
Tishomingo4175
Prentiss41210
Claiborne40713
Smith40513
Clay39614
Hancock39014
Jasper3869
Tippah36613
Itawamba35910
Tunica3377
Clarke32726
Montgomery3265
Lawrence3238
Yalobusha31510
Humphreys29311
Quitman2691
Carroll26111
Greene25012
Perry2367
Webster23412
Kemper23314
Amite2326
Jefferson Davis2316
Wilkinson21213
Stone1995
Sharkey1975
Jefferson1967
Benton1441
Choctaw1344
Franklin1272
Issaquena261
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 99390

Reported Deaths: 1733
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13109243
Mobile9947207
Montgomery6835148
Madison537834
Tuscaloosa421373
Unassigned359961
Baldwin354425
Shelby328335
Marshall316736
Lee267845
Morgan239318
Etowah212131
DeKalb181913
Calhoun178414
Elmore172338
Walker152664
Houston139812
Russell13682
St. Clair133817
Limestone133313
Dallas132323
Franklin127420
Cullman122512
Colbert118113
Autauga116921
Lauderdale116719
Escambia108217
Talladega102614
Jackson9894
Tallapoosa85579
Chambers84138
Dale83424
Blount8004
Chilton7926
Butler76436
Coffee7616
Covington73520
Pike7097
Clarke6629
Barbour5755
Marion57424
Lowndes57224
Marengo55215
Hale47626
Bullock46411
Winston45311
Perry4424
Bibb4385
Wilcox42910
Monroe4214
Randolph40110
Pickens4009
Conecuh39310
Washington39112
Sumter36018
Lawrence3491
Macon33514
Crenshaw3185
Choctaw28312
Cherokee2737
Henry2633
Geneva2611
Clay2585
Greene25111
Lamar2222
Fayette2075
Cleburne1271
Coosa1012
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 98° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 85°
Columbus
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 96° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 76°
Oxford
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 78°
Starkville
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 75°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather