Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
In Georgia, Republican Brian Kempâwho is in a close gubernatorial race against Democrat Stacey Abramsâhas come under fire for his efforts to suppress non-white voters. And in a leaked audio that Rolling Stone has obtained, Kemp (who is Georgiaâs secretary of state) can be heard saying that he fears losing the election âif everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.â
In recent polls from WXIA-TV/Survey USA and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kemp was leading Abrams by only 2%âwhich is a statistical dead heat. And in the recording that Rolling Stone obtained, Kemp expressed his fear that Abrams could win thanks to âthe literally tens of millions of dollars thatâ her campaign is âputting behind the get-out-the-vote effort to their base.â
Kemp, in the audio, is also heard expressing his concerns that absentee ballots could favor Abrams. Kemp laments, âThey have just an unprecedented number of (absentee ballots), which is something that continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to voteâwhich they absolutely canâand mails those ballots in. We gotta have heavy turnout to offset that.â
The recording was made on Friday, October 19 at the Blind Pig Parlor Barâwhich is near Atlantaâs upscale Buckhead areaâat an event for the group Georgia Professionals for Kemp.
Abrams has called for Kemp to step down as Georgiaâs secretary of state, stressing that it is a major conflict of interest for him to be scrutinizing either ballots or voting applications while he is running for governor. The far-right Republican (an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump) has drawn plenty of criticism for his recent decision to suspend over 53,000 voter applicationsâabout 70% of which came from African-Americans, who are more likely to vote for Abrams. Given that voters of color have been Kempâs main target, the Rev. Al Sharpton has asserted that âJim Crow would blushâ over his actions.
In July 2017, Kemp cut more than half a million Georgia residents from the stateâs voter rollsâand according to APM Reportsâ analysis, an estimated 107,000 of them were cut simply because they hadnât voted in the previous election. Further, 595 absentee ballots have been rejected in Gwinnett County, Georgia, which just happens to have a high number of black residents.
A lawsuit filed by the Coalition for Good Governance is demanding that voters in Gwinnett County be notified within a day if their ballots are rejected. And the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit as well, denouncing the ballot rejections as a âconstitutional train wreck.â
Rolling Stoneâs Jamil Smith contacted Abramsâ campaign about the leaked audioâand Abigail Collazo (the campaignâs director of strategic communications) asserted, âBrian Kemp is barely trying to hide the shameful fact that his strategy is to win through voter suppression. The idea that he, as secretary of state, would be âconcernedâ that hardworking Georgians are exercising their right to vote is disgraceful and outrageous.â
Alex Henderson is a news writer at AlterNet and veteran political journalist. His work has also appeared in Salon, Raw Story, Truthdig, National Memo, Philadelphia Weekly, Democratic Underground, L.A. Weekly, MintPress News and many other publications. Follow him on TwitterÂ @alexvhenderson.