By BILL BARROW, Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — Stacey Abrams, the Democrat vying for the governorship of Georgia, is ratcheting up her assertion that Republican rival Brian Kemp is effectively suppressing minority and women voters, setting up a defining fault line in one of the nation’s premier midterm election contests.
Abrams told CNN on Sunday that Kemp is “eroding the public trust” in his current role as Georgia’s secretary of state because he’s held up 53,000 new voter registration applications, questioning their legality under Georgia law.
She’s called for Kemp to resign as chief elections officer.
“This is simply a redux of a failed system that is both designed to scare people out of voting and … for those who are willing to push through, make it harder for them to vote,” Abrams told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Kemp counters that he’s only following the law, and he insists the would-be voters can cast ballots in November — though those could end up being provisional ballots that aren’t ultimately counted if the voters don’t prove their legitimacy.
“This is not complicated,” said Kemp spokesman Ryan Mahoney. “Every person on the ‘pending’ list, if they are real and qualified, can vote at their polling precinct early or on Election Day. Stacey Abrams is either intentionally misleading Georgia voters or simply does not understand how voting works in our state.”
Mahoney added, “Clearly, she is unfit to be governor.”
Tapper said on the air that Kemp declined an invitation to appear on his show.
The voters in limbo could be key in what’s expected to be a close election as Abrams tries to break the GOP’s hold in Georgia and become the first Black female governor in American history.
Abrams states freely that her path to victory requires votes from sporadic voters, particularly younger and non-White voters. An Associated Press found that 70 percent of the 53,000 pending applications are from Black Georgians.
At issue is Georgia’s “exact match” voter registration law, which Kemp helped lobby Georgia’s GOP-run legislature to adopt.
The law requires information on a voter’s registration application to exactly match information on file with Georgia’s driver’s license agency of the Social Security Administration. That can trip up, for instance, women who have changed or hyphenated their names after being married. Other examples might include younger voters who were adopted or for some other reason use a different last name than what was recorded with the Social Security Administration at the time of their birth.
Abrams scoffed Sunday at Kemp’s claim that the Georgians in question can still vote. She predicted there would be an unevenly applied “subjective standard” by local elections officials.
“It would be much easier if he actually did his job and processed people in a proper fashion,” she said.
Abrams added that, “Voting should not be a question of trust on the part of voters … and right now he is eroding the public trust in the system because 53,000 have been told, ‘You may be able to vote, you may not, it’s up to you to prove it.'”
The courts could end up deciding the fight. Civil rights activists sued the secretary of state late last week over the matter. That suit is pending in federal district court.
Absentee mail voting in Georgia already is underway. Early in-person voting begins Monday.
Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP.