A group of Georgia voters has filed a federal lawsuit asking the U.S. District Court in Atlanta to keep Secretary of State Brian Kemp—the Republican candidate running for Governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams– from exercising any further powers of the Secretary of State’s Office in presiding over the General Election.
The emergency legal papers were filed late this afternoon (Tuesday) on behalf of five Georgia voters: LaTosha Brown, Jennifer N. Ide and Katharine Wilkinson of Fulton County, Candace Fowler of Dekalb County, and Chalis Montgomery of Barrow County. They are represented in the matter by Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group; Michael J. Moore (a former U.S. Attorney) of the firm Pope McGlamry; and Bryan L. Sells (a former Department of Justice attorney) of the Atlanta Law Office of Bryan L. Sells.
In a press statement provided to Essence, the plaintiffs said they are seeking a temporary restraining order barring Secretary Kemp from being involved in the counting of votes, the certification of results, or any runoff or recount procedures that would normally be exercised by the Secretary of State’s Office or the Board of Elections, on which he also sits.
Larry Schwartztol, counsel for Protect Democracy said: “That no person should be a judge in their own case is about as basic a rule of fairness as you can get. That principle, embodied in the Constitution’s Due Process Clause, applies with special force to Secretary Kemp, who has mis-used his official position to try to tilt the playing field of the election in his favor. The extreme facts of this case warrant emergency relief to protect the rights of Georgia voters.”
The lawsuit cites a recent effort by Kemp to use the Secretary of State’s Office’s official powers to make an unfounded accusation against the party of his opponent and post that accusation on the Secretary of State’s official website, then promoting it through his campaign’s political channels. The lawsuit alleges that this is merely the latest and most extreme misuse of the Secretary’s position to try to give himself an unfair advantage in his race for governor.
Previously, two federal courts ruled against Secretary Kemp in prior matters in which he was accused of violating the law. Two weeks ago, a federal judge ordered Secretary Kemp to instruct election officials to stop summarily discarding absentee ballots that contained signature discrepancies. And as recently as Friday, a federal judge struck down a restrictive “exact match” policy implemented by Secretary Kemp that had jeopardized the ability of over 3,000 individuals to vote because their voter registrations had minor discrepancies with their official identification documents.
Secretary Kemp is not the only Secretary of State presiding over his own election this cycle. In another high profile contest in Kansas, Secretary of State Kris Kobach is presiding over an election in which he is a candidate for governor.
“Whoever you support in an election, we should all be able to agree that it’s essential for a democracy for that election to be administered fairly,” said Moore, who is co-counsel in this case. Co-counsel Sells added: “Allowing one of the candidates to not just preside over their own election but misuse their office to give them an unfair advantage is just anti-democratic and unlawful.”
The Kemp campaign could not immediately be reached for comment on the lawsuit. The complaint can be found here: https://protectdemocracy.org/brown-et-al-v-brian-p-kemp-complaint/
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