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Brian Kemp's defeat of Stacey Abrams bodes ill for voting rights

Things may have changed since Abrams helped flip the typically deep-red state blue in 2020.
Governor Kemp Update On Flood Response & Recovery Efforts In Chattooga County
Brian Kemp at a news conference in Summerville, Georgia on Sept. 8.Elijah Nouvelage / Bloomberg via Getty Images, file

It’s déjà vu in Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp won his rematch against Democrat Stacey Abrams, NBC News projects. Kemp spent the majority of the race polling ahead of Abrams, leaning on his record in office to batter back his challenger’s attacks.

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Kemp stands out among the Republicans on the ballot this year for the role he played in the aftermath of the 2020 election. When Georgia’s voters narrowly went for Joe Biden, President Donald Trump tried to pressure Kemp and other state officials to invalidate the election’s results. Kemp refused to go along with Trump at the time and handily defeated David Purdue in the GOP primary this May.

Keeping Trump at arm’s length allowed Kemp to forge his own path in the race, both hyping his conservative credentials and appealing to moderate suburban voters. In his two debates with Abrams, Kemp kept the focus on the state’s economy, highlighting that he was one of the first governors to order businesses to be reopened during the pandemic. He also dodged a question about whether he would sign a bill that would outlaw abortion entirely if one came to his desk. (Current Georgia law bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.)

It will be a while before the full election data can be analyzed, but it will be worth seeing how voting patterns compared to those in 2020, when Abrams helped flip the typically deep-red state blue. Since then, Georgia’s Legislature has passed — and Kemp has signed — a law restricting voters’ ability to cast their ballots, a law that Kemp defends as making it “easy to vote and hard to cheat.” Kemp has cited high turnout ahead of Election Day as a sign that the law isn’t suppressing votes, but a breakdown of the results should see whether that claim pans out.