Republican officials in Georgia, a state that will host some very competitive statewide elections this year, haven't exactly been champions of voting rights recently.
One GOP state senator, for example, recently complained
about Sunday voting in an Atlanta shopping mall "dominated by African American shoppers." Around the same time, we learned about remarks Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) made in July, when he expressed concern
about Democrats "registering all these minority voters that are out there."
It's against this backdrop that the Republican Secretary of State -- Georgia's top elections official -- also subpoenaed the New Georgia Project, which happens to be the driving force behind the state's largest voter-registration campaign. As Joan Walsh noted
, the recently launched probe is so broad, it could tie up the voter-registration organization "indefinitely."
That may well very be the point. Pema Levy reported
yesterday on the dubious subpoena, issued on the eve of key, competitive races.
So far, [the New Georgia Project] has collected 85,000 voter registration applications. Together with around 20,000 registration forms collected by smaller partner groups, Democrats are close to registering 120,000 new voters -- mostly black, Hispanic, Asian and young people -- before the November elections. But on September 9, the group received a broad subpoena from the office of the Georgia secretary of state, Republican Brian Kemp, as part of an investigation into the group stemming from evidence of fraudulent registration applications. Kemp's office also sent a letter to county election officials in Georgia's 159 counties warning that a "preliminary investigation has revealed significant illegal activities."
"Significant" is a relative term. In reality, there were 25 invalid
voter-registration applications out of 85,000. Or, put another way, more than 99.9% of the New Georgia Project's paperwork was fine.
So why the pre-election crackdown?
Levy talked to
state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Ga.), who's helped spearhead the voter-registration campaign.
Abrams is quick to point out, however, that her group is required by law to turn in every application they collect, even if it contains errors. "If the form says Mickey Mouse registered in Anaheim, California, we have to turn that form in," Abrams said in an interview with Newsweek last week. That's why she's calling the investigation a witch hunt. "There was no way to win. And that's what this really resembles," Abrams said. "We were being told if you follow the law, you were wrong. And if you didn't follow the law, you're wrong."
The report added that Georgia Dems suspect "a few inevitable errors are being used as a pretext to attack an organization that is registering large numbers of Democratic voters."
Georgia's U.S. Senate race and gubernatorial race are very competitive, and may even be forced into December run-off elections.