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Congress is investigating Georgia governor's voter suppression scheme

Brian Kemp’s years of suppressing the black vote in Georgia might have helped him win his race for governor.

By Dan Desai Martin - March 07, 2019
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Republican nominee Brian Kemp

After years of actively working to suppress the voting rights of primarily black voters as Georgia’s secretary of state, Republican Brian Kemp narrowly won his 2018 campaign to become the state’s governor.

But now, Congress is taking a closer look at the shady tactics Kemp employed while he was secretary of state — and whether those tactics might have impacted the results of the election.

The House Oversight Committee is “investigating recent reports of serious problems with voter registration, voter access, and other matters affecting the ability of people in Georgia to exercise their right to vote,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), chair of the committee, wrote in a Wednesday letter to Kemp.

Cummings added that the committee is concerned about “reports that Georgians faced unprecedented challenges with registering to vote and significant barriers to casting their votes during the 2018 election.”

The letter was also signed by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), chair of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

As the letter notes, as secretary of state Kemp helped purge 1.4 million people from the Georgia voting rolls and closed 200 polling locations across the state.

And in 2018 — when he was running for governor — he placed the voter registration applications of 53,000 people, mostly people of color, on hold. During that 2018 election, voters in predominantly black counties waited hours and hours to cast their vote, even though there were unused voting machines sitting in warehouses.

After years of these efforts to suppress the black vote, Kemp narrowly defeated Stacey Abrams, who could have been Georgia’s first black woman governor.

When she was asked during the campaign if she believed Kemp was intentionally suppressing certain voters by putting those 53,000 registrations on hold, Abrams replied, “Absolutely.” She added that the schemes were part of a “pattern of behavior,” and that Kemp had even settled a lawsuit over the same process in 2016 because it had “a disproportionate effect on people of color.”

Congress is looking for documents related to voter purges, polling location closures, and the availability and use of voting machines in the state in order to get a better picture of how Kemp and the Republican-led state of Georgia may have driven down voter turnout.

In addition to a letter to Kemp, Cummings and Raskin sent a letter to Georgia’s current secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. Both Kemp and Raffensperger have until March 20 to provide the committee the requested documents.

The new Democratic majority in the House is doing more than just investigating previous efforts of voter suppression by Republicans — it’s putting voting rights front and center in the legislative agenda.

The marquee bill of the new majority, H.R. 1, is focused on promoting voter registration, ending partisan gerrymandering, and increasing the security of America’s election infrastructure to safeguard against foreign infiltration.

In addition, Democrats recently introduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill to update and modernize the Voting Rights Act.

Through both investigation and legislation, one party is showing a clear commitment to the most bedrock principle of democracy: the right to vote.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation. 


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