Brian Kemp, background right, Chairman of State Election Board, and David Worley, left, member of State Election Board, during a meeting to lay out the case of alleged voter registration fraud against the New Georgia Project at the Georgia State Capitol on Sept. 17, 2014.
Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP

Georgia’s GOP gubernatorial candidate is overseeing his own election


The Rachel Maddow Show, 10/10/18, 9:48 PM ET

Kemp holding up 53K voter registrations as he runs for governor

Rachel Maddow reports on Brian Kemp, secretary of state for Georgia, who has not stepped down from that job even though he is running for governor, putting over 53,000 new, disproportionately black voter registrations on hold just a month ahead of the
The top elections official in Georgia is Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Kemp is also a far-right Republican running for governor in one of the nation’s most competitive and closely watched races.

Common sense suggests the GOP candidate would recognize his conflict of interest – Kemp shouldn’t officially oversee his own election, deciding, among other things, who gets to vote – and stand aside, but that’s not happening. Georgians are simply supposed to trust that he’ll be responsible and even-handed.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, that’s not working out especially well.

Last year, for example, the far-right Republican’s office canceled over 600,000 voter registrations. This year, as the Associated Press reported this week, Kemp is raising even more questions about his official actions.

Marsha Appling-Nunez was showing the college students she teaches how to check online if they’re registered to vote when she made a troubling discovery. Despite being an active Georgia voter who had cast ballots in recent elections, she was no longer registered.

“I was kind of shocked,” said Appling-Nunez, who moved from one Atlanta suburb to another in May and believed she had successfully changed her address on the voter rolls.

“I’ve always voted. I try to not miss any elections, including local ones,” Appling-Nunez said.

She tried re-registering, but with about one month left before a November election that will decide a governor’s race and some competitive U.S. House races, Appling-Nunez’s application is one of over 53,000 sitting on hold with Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office. And unlike Appling-Nunez, many people on that list – which is predominantly black, according to an analysis by The Associated Press – may not even know their voter registration has been held up.

One of the underlying problems is that Kemp implemented a system called “exact match.” In practice, if you’ve hyphenated your last name after getting married, or you sometimes use your middle initial, your name may not exactly match the listing in state files.

And if it doesn’t, the Republican gubernatorial candidate is in a position to put your voter registration on indefinite hold.

Kemp’s office won’t necessarily tell you your application is on hold, and it won’t tell you how to resolve the issue.

Making matters slightly worse, Kemp is running against Stacey Abrams, the first black woman in American history to be a major-party nominee for governor in any state, who’s basing much of her election strategy on turning out black voters and registering new voters. And wouldn’t you know it, Kemp’s gambit is disproportionately affecting Georgia’s African-American community: the Associated Press found that nearly 70% of the names on Kemp’s list are black (in a state where roughly 35% of the population is black).

With polls showing the Republican ahead by very narrow margins, we’re talking about suppression tactics that may very well tip the scales.

Kemp denies trying to suppress the vote. I’d recommend skepticism.

Georgia, Voting Rights and War On Voting

Georgia's GOP gubernatorial candidate is overseeing his own election