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  • Writer's pictureKayla Grant

Brian Kemp Steals the Gubernatorial Race from Stacey Abrams in Georgia

Republican candidate and Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp won the 2018 gubernatorial race against Democrat candidate and minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives Stacey Abrams.

Throughout the election, the two candidates stayed close in the polls. In the end, Kemp received 50.2 percent of the votes, while Abrams received 48.8 percent. Because of the close election, it was very important for the candidates to plan strategically and find the best way to reach as many people as possible.

Since Kemp was in charge of the managing the state elections, many people believe that he was using his position to win. Kemp has been accused of using voter suppression as a tactic to win the elections.

Voter suppression is a tactic used by partisan political powers to either dissuade or outright obstruct people from casting ballots.

The voter purge is one of the major forms of voter suppression wherein registered voters are removed from the voting list and unable to cast a vote. In July 2017, Kemp oversaw the removal of 8 percent of Georgia’s registered voters.

Voting purges occur often for various reasons, including death or being sent to prison. This purge is notable because of how many people were removed, who it affected and the reason they were removed.

The main reason that many voters were purged is they did not vote in the previous election. Kemp used his position to adopt a “use it or lose it” policy, which means that if people did not vote in the last election, they were purged from the system.

So, for an estimated 107,000 people, their removal from the voter rolls was triggered not because they moved or died or went to prison, but rather because they had decided not to vote in prior elections.

Another reason that caused many voters to be purged is inconsistency in government records.

Kemp’s office put 53,000 voter registrations on hold, nearly 70 percent of whom were African-American voters by enacting an “exact match” system. People were not allowed to vote if there were any discrepancies in their government records like a dropped hyphen.

In addition to voter purges, voter suppression was shown through technical issues and poll location issues.

Many voters reported that when they tried to vote for Abrams, the voting machine would select Kemp. Although Joseph Kirk, the Bartow County election supervisor, stated that he calibrated the voting machines prior to early election day, he admits that the machines are very old and that the voting machines needed to be calibrated again.

The voting poll locations were an issue in many minority neighborhoods because they were either closed down or the waiting time was extremely long. This led to voting locations having to extend their hours. And there were reports of many voting machines still in storage and not being used.

Voter suppression was shown in many ways throughout the United States during the midterm elections.

In North Carolina, the students of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University protested against the campus gerrymandering, the process of redrawing state and congressional districts to benefit a particular political party. Students at the same campus were required to vote in different precincts. Separating the campus into different districts is a tactic the elected officials in power use to dilute the vote. Dividing the campus in half discourages many students from voting.

In Texas, the students at Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical University sued Waller County because of issues regarding voting locations. The students wanted extended early voting hours and days on campus. In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Houston, five Prairie View A&M University students alleged that Waller County election officials violated the civil rights of African-American students and residents in Prairie View by not providing any early voting locations on campus or anywhere in the city during the first week of early voting.

During the second week of voting, Waller County provided early voting locations that were not on campus and hard to reach for a student without a car.

Similarly, in Dodge City, Kansas, the only polling location available was moved out of the majority Hispanic town. The location was a half-mile outside of the city limits and is not easy to get to. There were no forms of public transportation that went to the new polling place, which made it very impossible for many residents of Dodge City to get there.

A lawsuit was filed to stop the change or open another polling location; however, United States District Judge Daniel Crabtree denied it. The common reason given for courts that usually do not act on these lawsuits is that they do not want to insert themselves into the election process on the eve of the elections. They claim it might create more confusion than rectify the issue.

Voter suppression has been used throughout the history of voting in the United States. Before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, people of color experienced voter suppression through the Jim Crow laws. During the Jim Crow Era, literary tests and poll taxes were used as a way to suppress the African-American vote.

Although the Jim Crow laws are no longer legal, there are still many voter suppression tactics that are used to suppress the votes from people of color — specifically African-Americans.

Kemp was Georgia’s Secretary of State for eight years. He oversaw these systematic voter suppression efforts. If the election had been fair, Abrams would have won.


This article is published in the Clark Atlanta University Panther. Visit the site by clicking here.

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