Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams reiterated calls for Republican opponent Brian Kemp to resign as Georgia’s secretary of state, calling his recent voter suppression efforts part of a broader “pattern of behavior.”
Kemp has come under fire amid reports that his office has 53,000 applications to vote sitting on hold ahead of the November midterms. The registrations largely concern the state’s “exact match” verification program, which targets voters whose names on their voter applications differ from their name as it’s listed for other government agencies — even if it’s as minor as a missing hyphen.
The pending applications could affect the upcoming gubernatorial election and Abrams’ fight to become the first black woman governor of the United States. Seventy percent of the 53,000 applications are black voters, according to the Associated Press, and Abrams noted Sunday the action also disproportionately affects women — two groups that are particularly likely to vote for Democrats.
Abrams hit back against Kemp’s actions Sunday in interviews on CNN’s State of the Union and Meet the Press, noting on CNN that voter suppression creates a “miasma of fear” that “is as much about terrifying people about trying to vote as it is about actually blocking their ability to do so.”
“What about those low-propensity voters in those tiny communities who are finally stepping up and saying, ‘This is my turn to cast my ballot,’ only to find that they are disenfranchised?” Abrams said. “They don’t know that they can go to the polls; they get a confusing letter saying there is something wrong with their registration, and more than likely they will sit out this election.
“Voting should not be a question of trust on the part of voters, whether they can trust the system. And right now [Kemp is] eroding the public trust in the system because 53,000 people have been told, ‘You may be able to vote, you may not, it’s up to you to prove it.’”
On Meet the Press, Abrams said Kemp’s withholding of the voter registrations was “absolutely” intentional, telling host Chuck Todd the move was “part of a pattern of behavior where he tries to tilt the playing field in his favor or in the favor of his party.”
Kemp previously undertook similar suppression efforts in 2016, before the state’s “exact match” verification process was legalized by the state legislature. A federal court then forced Kemp to restore the canceled registrations as a result of a lawsuit brought against him, which Abrams was a part of.
Abrams pointed to the previous lawsuit, which argued the voter suppression was discriminatory, when asked if Kemp’s tactics are racially motivated.
“We’ve known since 2016 that the exact match system has a disproportionate effect on people of color and on women,” Abrams said on CNN. “When you know that what you’re doing is going to have a disproportionate effect on people of color and on women and you do it anyway, that erodes the public trust in the system and that’s problematic.”
Kemp’s “pattern of behavior” is also why Abrams is calling on him to resign. Abrams’ campaign said Thursday that Kemp should resign for “maliciously wielding the power of his office to suppress the vote for political gain,” and the candidate noted Sunday that Kemp’s abuse of power goes beyond this one action.
“I think the call for his resignation is larger than simply this last and latest example of his incompetence,” Abrams said on CNN. “This is a larger pattern of behavior; this is someone who sued a woman for helping her blind mother cast a ballot, who closed more than 200 polling places across the state, but who also fails to take responsibility for his actions.
“When something goes well, he takes credit, but when there’s a problem, he blames everyone else.”
Despite Kemp’s efforts, however, Abrams said on Meet the Press that she remains “confident” the November election will still be a fair one. Though the exact match policy creates a “subjective” system requiring counties and poll workers to verify voters’ identities, Abrams noted the 53,000 affected voters will still be able to cast a ballot on Election Day.
“We’re creating another set of hurdles for people who simply want to exercise their right to vote,” Abrams said. “But my organization, working with the Democratic Party, we’ve put together the largest voter protection effort in the state’s history, and we have national organizations that are also paying attention.
“I think we can make this work.”