This week in Georgia, state Sen. Fran Millar (R) caused a considerable stir complaining about early voting in the upcoming elections. As the Republican state lawmaker explained, he has concerns about Sunday voting in an Atlanta shopping mall “dominated by African American shoppers” and near “several large African American mega churches.”
When his racially charged comments garnered attention, Millar refused to back down, writing on Facebook, “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters.”
Complicating matters, a recording of comments Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) made in July surfaced today to a group of Republican voters.
“In closing, I just wanted to tell you, real quick, after we get through this runoff, you know the Democrats are working hard, and all these stories about them, you know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that, they can win these elections in November.”
Now, in context, Kemp didn’t say efforts to “register all these minority voters” should be curtailed, only that Republicans should work harder to compensate, presumably by registering more non-minority voters.
But that’s cold comfort. Georgia’s Secretary of State is also the state’s top elections official, responsible for the integrity of the system for all citizens, not just Republicans. It’s hardly reassuring that he’s concerned about one side of the political divide “registering all these minority voters.”
Indeed, this is the same Kemp who recently subpoenaed “the records of the New Georgia Project, the state’s largest voter registration effort, alleging the group has committed voter fraud.” As Joan Walsh noted, the probe is so broad, it could tie up the voter-registration organization “indefinitely.”
I can’t speak to the merit of the allegations against the New Georgia Project, but it’d be easier to take the subpoenas seriously if Georgia’s top elections official were more impartial and less partisan.
That said, it’s worth noting why Republican officials would be quite so concerned. At first blush, one might think Georgia is a reliably red state – it has a Republican governor, Republican legislature, two Republican U.S. senators, and it’s been 22 years since it supported a Democratic presidential candidate – so there’s no real point to GOP officials worrying about voter-registration drives.
But take a closer look. In fact, back in June, msnbc’s Chris Hayes had a fascinating report that’s worth checking out, especially in light of these new stories out of Georgia.
For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s the key takeaway from Chris’ report:
“In 2008, John McCain won the state by 204,000 votes. In 2010, Republican Governor Nathan Deal won by 258,000 votes. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the state by 304,000 votes.“Organizers say there are roughly 830,000 unregistered voters of color in the state. If they can register 90 percent of them, and 70 percent of those people vote, that`s over 520,000 new voters. And if 80 percent of those voters go for Democrats, which is not an unlikely rate based on recent election results, Democrats could wind up netting just over 310,000 new votes, enough to beat Nathan Deal in 2010, enough to give Barack Obama wins in both 2008 and 2012.“According to that math, Georgia turns blue.”
Why are Republican officials worried about “these minority voters” getting registered? This is why.