Imagine being eager to register to vote for the upcoming midterms only to find a “pending” status on the county’s election office website. This is the case for as many as 53,000 Georgians, voting rights advocates say.
Brian Kemp, the Secretary of State for Georgia and Republican nominee for Governor, is being sued by numerous voter advocacy groups for his “exact match” program as a proposed measure to suppress voters. “Exact match” requires registered voters’ names to precisely resemble the names on their state IDs or social security cards, and if not their status will be marked as “pending.” This translates to nicknames, birth names of trans people or changed last names of married women as subject to being flagged. Kemp states the protocol is meant to confirm identification and prevent voter fraud. As mentioned earlier, this would affect thousands of registered Georgians, especially those of color. NPR reported 70 percent of these pending registrations are African-Americans alone. Historically there has been a racial imbalance within accessibility of identification, which could explain this disproportion.
This isn’t unprecedented behavior by the Secretary of State; he was accused of purging roughly 1.5 million registered voters between 2012 and 2016 through Georgia’s “Use It or Lose It” program alone, which removes voters from the system if they haven’t cast a ballot since the previous two presidential elections.
Stacey Abrams, Kemp’s opponent for Governor, has said this is an attempt to suppress minority turnout who in large part vote Democratic. If Abrams were to win, she would be the first African-American woman Governor in the United States. The race is currently neck-and-neck, and could even possibly require a recount following Tuesday’s election. However, Kemp remarked in a recent town hall that he would refuse to recuse himself as Secretary of State if a recount were needed.
Through all of this, Kemp has maintained that “it has never been easier to register to vote” and the idea of him suppressing the minority vote is a “farce.”
Chris Forbes, a sophomore at the University of Redlands and native Georgian, spoke about what he thinks of the situation.
“I’m not surprised,” Forbes said. “Georgia has been doing this for so many years, we’re just used to it… “It’s not new to us. Go to almost any other state in the South and you’ll find stuff like this.”
Political science Professor Eric Mclaughlin summarized that no data suggests the idea that people take advantage of polling systems through false identification. “There is little to no evidence that supports voter fraud is happening at the individual level,” Mclaughlin said.“We know that voter ID laws disproportionately affect minorities.”
The Hill reported on Nov. 1 “exact match” was struck down by a federal judge and would not be put in place for the upcoming election. Voters whose registration status is pending due to citizenship will be required to show proof of residency on election day. If this cannot be done on-site, they’ll still have the opportunity to submit a provisional ballot and follow up with their local election office by that Friday.
Voter suppression has continued to be widespread throughout the country. Aljazeera noted nearly 25 states have introduced stricter voting measures since 2010.
Election day is Nov. 6. Find your polling place at sos.ca.gov.
Photo contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographer Miracle Cariagra.