STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Civil rights groups sue Georgia Republican Brian Kemp over 53,000 'pending' voter registrations

A coalition of advocacy groups has launched a lawsuit to block Georgia from enforcing a practice critics say...

Posted: Oct 14, 2018 8:41 AM
Updated: Oct 14, 2018 8:41 AM

A coalition of advocacy groups has launched a lawsuit to block Georgia from enforcing a practice critics say endangers the votes of more than 50,000 people in November and potentially larger numbers headed into the 2020 presidential election cycle.

The Campaign Legal Center and Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law argued in the suit, which was filed in a federal district court on Thursday, that the state's "exact match" requirement violates the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act and the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Brian Kemp

Elections and campaigns

Government and public administration

Political Figures - US

Politics

Voters and voting

Voting rights

Civil rights

Continents and regions

Georgia

Law and legal system

Lawsuits and claims

North America

Society

Southeastern United States

The Americas

Trial and procedure

United States

Political organizations

US political parties

US Republican Party

Stacey Abrams

African Americans

Demographic groups

Minority and ethnic groups

Population and demographics

The office of Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is now running for governor in a hotly contested race with Democratic former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, used the system from 2013 to 2016 but stopped in 2017 as part of a settlement stemming from separate litigation. But the Republican-held state legislature soon stepped in and passed the protocol into law. A recent Associated Press report found around 53,000 people -- nearly 70% of them African-Americans -- had their registrations placed in limbo because of some kind of mismatch with drivers license or social security information. Kemp, in a tweet, said, "The 53,000 Georgians on our 'pending' list can vote in the Nov. 6th election."

As the AP report stoked a national firestorm, the Abrams campaign called for Kemp to resign as the state's top elections official in order for Georgia voters to "have confidence that their Secretary of State (will) competently and impartially oversee this election."

In the lawsuit, which was formally threatened back in July and has no connection to the campaign, the plaintiffs argue that the controversial "exact match" checks had been shown "to disproportionately and negatively impact the ability of voting-eligible African-American, Latino and Asian-American applicants" even before the process was signed into law by the current governor, Republican Nathan Deal, in 2017.

Danielle Lang, senior legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, said Friday that the groups were not alleging that Kemp had violated the letter of the law, but suggested he had taken steps to enforce it as restrictively as possible.

"As secretary of state, you have discretion about the policy you put forward to enforce that law," Lang said, "and I have seen no evidence of any policy put in place by Secretary Kemp that would minimize who would get (unduly) caught in this net."

Kemp has said that those currently on the "pending" list will be able to vote in the coming election provided they can show approved identification at their polling places, which is already required by the state. Provisional ballots will also be made available in case related disputes cannot be sorted on the spot.

The Campaign Legal Center, however, is concerned that voters who cast ballots by mail will not have that opportunity, and if their ballots are rejected under the "exact match" rule -- and they do not successfully navigate the bureaucracy within a 26-month window -- they could see their names purged from the voter rolls. The current law allows the state to remove "inactive voters" who miss three cycles. This, Lang said, could speed up those removals.

Candice Broce, the press secretary and a staff attorney with Kemp's office, called the lawsuit a "publicity stunt" full of "bogus" claims.

"It is a complete waste of our time and taxpayer dollars," she said in a statement, arguing that the law "mirrors" another in Florida that survived a recent court challenge. "The 53,000 Georgians cited in their complaint can vote in the November 6th election. Any claims to the contrary are politically motivated and utterly false."

In a press release from August, after the threat of litigation had been made public, Kemp argued that "despite any claim to the contrary, it has never been easier to register to vote in Georgia and actively engage in the electoral process."

"The numbers do not lie," he said. "I defeated the Lawyers' Committee and their clients in 2014, and I look forward to successfully defending Georgia's common-sense verification law if they move forward with this litigation."

In tweets this week, Kemp touted what is expected to be a record 7 million or more registered voters going into next month's midterms while alleging that Abrams had "manufactured a 'crisis' to fire up her supporters and raise funds from left wing radicals throughout the country."

He has, throughout the campaign, attacked the former state House minority leader, who had a reputation for crafting bipartisan compromises during her time in the legislature, as a "radical" too closely aligned with progressive national Democrats and "outside agitators."

The escalating fights, both in the courtroom and on the campaign trail, mark a reprisal of past battles between Kemp and Abrams and, separately, nonpartisan groups like those bringing the new litigation against his office.

"If there is one person in Georgia who knows that the 'Exact Match' scheme has a discriminatory impact on minority voters, it's Brian Kemp," said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, "because we successfully sued him over a mirror policy in 2016."

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday, accusing the Justice Department of taking an "intentionally lax approach to enforcement of voting rights laws" throughout the country.

The CBC singled out the Georgia controversy, and accused Kemp of intentionally suppressing the African-American vote in the upcoming election, according to the letter obtained by CNN.

In the letter, the CBC called out what it described as the DOJ's "complete abdication" of voting rights oversight responsibilities.

Huntsville
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 72°
Florence
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 71°
Fayetteville
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Decatur
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 68°
Scottsboro
Overcast
72° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 72°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 91776

Reported Deaths: 1639
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12186230
Mobile9269204
Montgomery6350148
Madison512227
Tuscaloosa400269
Baldwin332223
Shelby311932
Marshall300134
Unassigned287856
Lee255442
Morgan227015
Etowah196728
DeKalb172113
Elmore163337
Calhoun162713
Walker147964
Houston133412
Dallas129823
Russell12672
St. Clair125214
Limestone122713
Franklin121520
Cullman117112
Colbert112213
Lauderdale111113
Autauga103021
Escambia98115
Talladega94613
Jackson8904
Chambers83238
Tallapoosa82778
Dale79823
Butler75435
Blount7453
Chilton7386
Coffee7255
Covington71620
Pike6727
Barbour5645
Lowndes56124
Marion54724
Marengo52914
Clarke4919
Hale45926
Bullock44411
Winston43511
Perry4324
Wilcox41110
Monroe3964
Randolph39210
Bibb3844
Pickens3769
Conecuh37310
Sumter36018
Lawrence3251
Macon31613
Washington31512
Crenshaw3073
Choctaw27612
Cherokee2497
Greene24711
Henry2473
Geneva2430
Clay2255
Lamar2052
Fayette1785
Cleburne1211
Coosa952
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 114098

Reported Deaths: 1144
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby21924298
Davidson19812208
Rutherford625453
Hamilton580347
Knox418638
Williamson336322
Sumner326471
Unassigned29285
Out of TN279314
Wilson215223
Montgomery178113
Bradley177112
Sevier17636
Putnam164613
Trousdale15766
Robertson147519
Hamblen131113
Blount11868
Tipton11379
Washington11142
Maury11077
Madison95714
Bedford89011
Sullivan85911
Macon84713
Hardeman84312
Lake7580
Loudon6863
Bledsoe6741
Fayette6468
Anderson6376
Dickson6301
Gibson6152
Dyer5797
Cheatham5546
Rhea5141
Jefferson5133
McMinn49820
Lawrence4976
Henderson4830
Obion4644
Warren4544
Carter4525
Coffee4482
Lauderdale4457
Hardin4267
Cocke4212
Haywood4145
Greene3986
Roane3982
Cumberland3976
Smith3933
Hawkins3915
Monroe3809
Giles36012
McNairy3355
Weakley3293
DeKalb3261
Franklin2964
Marshall2713
Lincoln2591
Carroll2513
Crockett2464
Hickman2400
Claiborne2350
White2323
Henry2310
Campbell2241
Wayne2222
Johnson2140
Marion2104
Chester2012
Grainger1810
Polk1813
Decatur1742
Overton1411
Unicoi1410
Union1330
Cannon1310
Humphreys1133
Benton1111
Jackson1091
Scott1050
Grundy1042
Meigs990
Sequatchie960
Morgan941
Perry770
Fentress760
Hancock761
Stewart720
Clay660
Lewis621
Houston540
Moore530
Van Buren330
Pickett271

Community Events