Republicans in Georgia are very, very scared. The state is preparing to vote in an historic election in which the very first black female candidate, Stacey Abrams, for governor is on the ballot with paper-thin margins between she and her white, male GOP opponent, Brian Kemp, in polls. The problem with the polls, however, is that many of the respondents may not know they’ve been rendered ineligible to vote at all.
"Use it or lose it" laws like Georgia's seek to decrease voter participation and under our democracy. We need to return to a government #ForThePeople. https://t.co/lgK6oZ90GU
— Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) October 19, 2018
According to APM Reports:
‘A handful of states, most of them led by Republicans, are using someone’s decision not to vote as the trigger for removing them from the rolls. No state has been more aggressive with this approach than Georgia, where Brian Kemp, the secretary of state, oversaw the purging of a growing number of voters ahead of his own run for governor, according to an APM Reports investigation. Voting rights advocates call it a new form of voter suppression, and they fear it will soon spread to other states.’
Is the Constitutional right to vote a use-it-or-lose-it conditional proposition? Some states are certainly trying to make it so: Listen to/read my podcast interview: https://t.co/ofg6ZR2m4j
— patt morrison (@pattmlatimes) October 19, 2018
The news follows a revelation that Kemp, who currently serves as the secretary of state in Georgia in charge of voter registrations and rolls, has a pile of 53,000 voter registration ballots yet to approve just three weeks before the midterm elections. A full 70 percent of those voter registrations are black voters.
Georgia is not the only state pulling these shady moves ahead of the midterms, either, although they are possibly using it in the most widespread way that will effectively impact the vote in their favor.
‘APM Reports found that at least nine states — most of them with Republican leadership, including the key battlegrounds of Georgia and Ohio — have purged an estimated hundreds of thousands of people from the rolls for infrequent voting since the 2014 general election. States with these policies are removing voters at some of the highest rates in the nation, no matter the reason.’
Georgia’s use of “use it or lose it” has removed an estimated 107,000 voters from the rolls. Many of those previously registered voters may not even realize they've been dropped when they try to vote in November. Via @AngelaTCR and @geoffhing https://t.co/6Lmd7uTFhD
— Tom Scheck (@tomscheck) October 19, 2018
The states of Alaska, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and West Virginia are using similar methods. Georgia is adding outright thuggery, though, as stories of elderly black voters being stopped on a bus driving them to the polls and told to get out by police as well as young black college students arrested for such crimes as “carrying a ballot to a mailbox” (which is not illegal) hit the news.
For his part, Kemp says he’s proud of these efforts to suppress black votes, telling reporters that “I’m very proud of my record on making sure we have secure, accessible and fair elections.” Of course, it’s only accessible and fair to white voters, but that’s Kemp’s voting base.
In the midst of exact match, absentee rejections, pending lists and paper ballot lawsuits, @JohnnyIK and @apmreports bring to light another piece of Georgia's controversial and complicated voting system: the "use it or lose it" policy. #gapol #gagov https://t.co/fv5PU04RJM
— stephen fowler | covering georgia politics (@stphnfwlr) October 19, 2018
Reporters note that “infrequent voters tend to be younger, poorer and people of color who are more likely to favor Democrats,” just as residents of poor, black communities traditionally are.
Featured image via Flickr by Keith Ivey under a Creative Commons license