By: Nicole Carr
ATLANTA – Tens of thousands of Georgia voter applications are on hold in the weeks leading up to a contentious, high-profile midterm election.
An Associated Press investigation released this week uncovered 53,000 voter registration applications on hold in the Secretary of State’s office.
The SOS cites discrepancies in the applications versus driver’s license records, and a violation of the “exact match” law. It’s legislation that was passed in 2017.
Essentially, a missing hyphen in a name or the addition of a middle initial in one record and not another could lead to a voter ending up in pending status. The office says those voters can still head to polls on Election Day and resolve their status.
Georgia’s secretary of state is Republican Brian Kemp. His gubernatorial opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, has called for Kemp to resign from his position overseeing the elections.
On Thursday morning, Kemp sent a tweet accusing her of “manufactured outrage” tied to a registration project she supports.
In a statement, Kemp notes the registrations account for less than 1 percent of the 5.6 million voters who have registered since 2014, and voters can indeed cast their ballots Election Day.
“Not a single voter whose status is pending for failure to verify will get rejected this election cycle,” Kemp said in the statement. “The 26-month period affords any pending applicant plenty of time to participate in a federal election — when expected turnout is highest — so the applicant has the best opportunity to provide the necessary information and move to active status.”
Abrams’ campaign boiled the issue down to voter suppression, noting that 70 percent of voters on the pending list are minorities. In part of a statement issued by Abigail Collazo, the Abrams for Governor director of strategic communications, said:
“As he has done for years, Brian Kemp is maliciously wielding the power of his office to suppress the vote for political gain and silence the voices of thousands of eligible voters — the majority of them people of color. This isn’t incompetence. It’s malpractice.”
Abdul Rasheed Salaam said the SOS office has an address on file for him that does not match his current address. He said he moved years ago, re-registered, voted in 2016 under his current address, and found a discrepancy Tuesday when he checked his voting status.
He has concerns about the exact match law.
“I’m in a position now where I don’t know if I come here on Election Day to vote that I’ll be able to vote,” he told Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Nicole Carr.
Catherine Hynes, an Atlanta resident, told Carr she would be uneasy with either candidate overseeing elections.
“You know, it’s such a divisive time right now,” Hynes said. “I think anything we can do to help each other trust one another is where we need to go.”
Several civil rights organizations are now suing Kemp. The lawsuit, filed in federal court Thursday, asks a judge to overturn the “exact match” law, saying it has a disproportionate impact on African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans who want to become registered voters.
“It imposes unnecessary and discriminatory burdens on the voter registration process,” according to the lawsuit, filed by the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law, which is representing several civil rights organizations in the legal action.
The plaintiffs include the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, Asian Americans for Advancing Justice, the NAACP of Georgia, the New Georgia Project, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and ProGeorgia.