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Georgia Gubernatorial Candidates Have A History Of Disagreeing Over Voting


Voting rights are on the ballot this year, and nowhere is that more clear than in Georgia. Republican Brian Kemp hopes to be the state's next governor. Right now, though, he's in charge of running its elections. As reporter Emma Hurt of member station WABE reports, Kemp and his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, have a history of disagreement over voting rights.

EMMA HURT, BYLINE: About 150 people gathered at the Georgia state Capitol last week to demand the resignation of Brian Kemp, Georgia's secretary of state.







HURT: What has rallied people together - news that 53,000 Georgians who have applied to register to vote are on the, quote, "pending list." Their applications did not exactly match information on file with other government databases down to punctuation errors. The Associated Press reports that nearly 70 percent of those on the list are African-American. These pending voters can still vote in this election with a state ID at the polls, and a similar policy has been upheld in federal court in Florida. But that doesn't make up for the conflict of interest according to Lydia Meredith, an Atlantan who was at the rally.

LYDIA MEREDITH: It's a travesty that the secretary of state has not already resigned because he's a candidate in the election that he has the office of overseeing.

HURT: Kemp's campaign spokesman, Ryan Mahoney, says the registration issue has been blown out of proportion.

RYAN MAHONEY: This is a manufactured crisis by Stacey Abrams for Stacey Abrams. So calls for resignation or calls for anything from the left should be completely ignored because they're completely dishonest. And they're just trying to feign outrage to try to turn out their base to support.

HURT: Exact match has been a policy of Kemp's office since 2010. Several civil rights groups challenged it in court in 2016, and parts of the policy were suspended. But in 2017, the Republican-controlled state Legislature made it a law. So some of the same groups sued Kemp again last week, arguing the law violates the Voting Rights Act. Danielle Lang with the Campaign Legal Center is one of their lawyers.

DANIELLE LANG: This policy doesn't flag the right people and leads to an extraordinarily high error rate where tens of thousands of eligible voters are flagged for potential removal based on, you know, a hyphen here and a space there or a transposed digit.

HURT: Brian Kemp's campaign blames, quote, "sloppy work" by a voter registration group called the New Georgia Project that Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams founded. That group is focused on minority and young voters. Kemp's office actually investigated the New Georgia Project for fraud back in 2014. The investigation was later dropped. Abrams told WABE earlier this month that as a state legislator, she has been fighting Kemp's office for removing inactive voters from the rolls and allowing counties to close polling places.


STACEY ABRAMS: For me, the question of voting is about expanding the right. Unfortunately my opponent has made his mission as secretary of state restricting that right and eliminating access in ways that have really harmed the body politic.

HURT: Kemp maintains his policies are protecting the integrity of Georgia's elections. He points to recent comments from Abrams, who said, quote, "documented and undocumented people" will be part of Georgia's, quote, "blue wave." Kemp appeared on Fox News this morning.


BRIAN KEMP: I think hardworking Georgians should decide who their governor is, not people here illegally like my opponent wants.

HURT: Abrams says Kemp is taking her issues out of context. But this issue is sure to fire up voters from both parties. A recent NPR-Marist poll found that 56 percent of Republicans consider voter fraud the biggest threat to this fall's elections. That's compared to 12 percent of Democrats. Early voting in Georgia started today. For NPR News, I'm Emma Hurt in Atlanta. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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