Ge­or­gia GOP gover­nor can­di­date sued over voter reg­is­tra­tions

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By Ben Nadler

Civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tions have filed a fed­eral law­suit against Ge­or­gia Sec­re­tary of State and Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Brian Kemp, ac­cus­ing his of­fice of pre­vent­ing mi­nor­ity vot­ers from reg­is­ter­ing ahead of next month’s closely watched race.

The law­suit, filed on Oct. 11 in fed­eral court in At­lanta, tar­gets Ge­or­gia’s “ex­act match” ver­i­fi­ca­tion process, which re­quires that in­for­ma­tion on voter ap­pli­ca­tions pre­cisely match in­for­ma­tion al­ready on file with the Ge­or­gia De­part­ment of Driver Ser­vices or the So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The law­suit comes days af­ter an anal­y­sis by The As­so­ci­ated Press found over 53,000 voter regis­tra­tion ap­pli­ca­tions sit­ting in pend­ing sta­tus. 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.

Kemp, who is in charge of elec­tions and voter regis­tra­tion in Ge­or­gia, is fac­ing Demo­crat Stacey Abrams, who is vy­ing to be­come the na­tion’s black fe­male gover­nor. Re­cent pub­lic polling in­di­cates the race is a dead heat.

Abrams’ cam­paign has called on Kemp to step down as Sec­re­tary of State, say­ing his run for gover­nor cre­ates a con­flict of in­ter­est with his role over­see­ing elec­tions.

Kemp’s of­fice has blamed the racial dis­par­ity on the New Ge­or­gia Project, a voter regis­tra­tion group founded by Abrams in 2013. It says the or­ga­ni­za­tion was sloppy in reg­is­ter­ing vot­ers, and says they sub­mit­ted in­ad­e­quate forms for a batch of ap­pli­cants that was pre­dom­i­nantly black.

An en­try er­ror or a dropped hy­phen in a last name can cause an ap­pli­ca­tion to be placed on hold.

The law­suit said the “ex­act-match” pol­icy “dis­pro­por­tion­ately and neg­a­tively im­pact the abil­ity of vot­ing-el­i­gi­ble AfricanAmer­i­can, Latino and Asian-Amer­i­can ap­pli­cants to reg­is­ter to vote.”

Candice Broce, a spokes­woman for Kemp’s of­fice, called the law­suit “bo­gus” and “a com­plete waste of our time and tax­payer dol­lars.”

Kemp’s of­fice said that vot­ers whose ap­pli­ca­tions are held in pend­ing sta­tus can go to the polls with a photo ID that matches in­for­ma­tion on their regis­tra­tion ap­pli­ca­tion — rec­ti­fy­ing the match is­sue in per­son — and cast a reg­u­lar bal­lot.

Vot­ers whose ap­pli­ca­tions are frozen in “pend­ing” sta­tus have 26 months to fix any is­sues be­fore their ap­pli­ca­tion is can­celed. They can still cast a pro­vi­sional bal­lot.

The law­suit was brought by sev­eral groups in­clud­ing the Ge­or­gia state chap­ter of the NAACP, Asian Amer­i­cans Ad­vanc­ing Jus­tice-At­lanta and the Ge­or­gia As­so­ci­a­tion of Latino Elected Of­fi­cials.

/ Con­trib­uted

Rev. Ja­son Odom and his wife, Michaela of the First Bap­tist Church of Rock­mart joined PREA for their Oc­to­ber meet­ing as the guest speak­ers.

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