Tuesday signaled the last day to register to vote in Georgia, if residents wanted to be eligible to vote on Nov. 6.
And yet, even some residents who may have thought themselves properly registered to vote may be in a bind, not registered and unable to vote after it was discovered that Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s Office had been sitting on more than 53,000 applications, most of which belong to black voters.
According to the Associated Press, Marsha Appling-Nunez first noticed it while showing her college students how to check if they’re registered to vote, an active Georgia voter who had voted in recent elections, found that she could not find her name.
“I was kind of shocked,” Appling-Nunez told the wire, noting that she had moved recently in May but thought she had successfully changed her address. “I’ve always voted. I try to not miss any elections, including local ones.”
Appling-Nunez tried to reregister but her application is now one of the tens of thousands being held up in Kemp’s office, many of whom, according to the AP, may not even know that their registration did not go through.
To make matters more insidious Kemp, whose office is in charge of the elections and voter registration in Georgia, is currently in a heated battle as he runs for governer against Stacey Abrams, who if elected would be the first black woman governor in the state.
Voting rights advocacy groups and Abrams have roundly accused Kemp of using his office to suppress votes and sway the elections, especially given the impact on minority voter.
According to the AP, despite Georgia’s population being about 32 percent black, the list of voter registrations on hold are nearly 70 percent black.
BREAKING from @AP: 53,000 Georgians' voter registrations (nearly 70% of them African-American) are being held up by @BrianKempGA's suppressive "exact match" policy. If you have any questions about voting, please contact our voter protection hotline at 1-888-730-5816. We can help!
— Georgia Democrat (@GeorgiaDemocrat) October 10, 2018
Kemp has routinely denied the accusations.
However, the fact remains, according to the AP, that Kemp’s office has cancelled more than 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012, through a process called voter roll maintenance.
More specifically there are two policies that have drawn criticism, Georgia’s “exact match” registration verification process, and the cancellation of a swath of inactive voter registrations.
Under the exact match policy, voter applications have to exactly match the information on file with the Georgia Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration. So errors, including something as small as a dropped hyphen in a last name, could cause the application to be held.
Kemp’s office claimed that the entire thing was the fault of the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group that Abrams founded in 2013. The organization, according to Kemp, submitted inadequate forms for a slew of applicants who happened to be mostly black. The organization “did not adequately train canvassers to ensure legible, complete forms ….” he claimed.
His office insists that “the law applies equally across all demographics,” adding that the disparity seen in the applications sitting in his office is due to “the higher usage of one method of registration among one particular demographic group.”
Voters whose application have been put on hold have up to 26 months to fix any issues before their application is canceled completely. However, those voters are still bale to cast a provisional ballot, according to the AP.