Voting Rights in Georgia Questioned as Midterms Arrive

Grace Fiori, Senior Editor

With Midterm elections right around the corner on November sixth, and over 6,000 state positions, 435 House seats, and 33 Senate spots being voted on, political discussions are running on an all time high.

In Georgia, however, a different kind of determination is being made- not who to vote for, but defining who is even allowed to vote. Last week, only a day before the registration deadline in Georgia,  it was revealed that over 100,000 voters had been removed from the registry, the majority being African- American, that could prevent them from voting in the upcoming November election.

The two key players of Georgia’s voter rights argument are running against each other for the position of governor in Georgia. Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, could become the first African- American female Governor in our nation. She is best known for founding an organization, the New Georgia Project, that motivated thousands of minority voters to register.

On the opposing side, Brian Kemp, a Republican who has been the secretary of state for Georgia for eight years, and gained notice after creating strict voting regulations in an attempt to halt voting fraud. Under Kemp, Georgia has removed over 1.6 million names from the voter rolls, a significant spike in clearing of the lists, leading some to label it “a purge” of registration rolls.

An intense focus, and resulting high invalidation rate of registered voters, stems from rigid rules and laws that Mr. Kemp and his office have initiated in Georgia. A policy of “use it or lose it” have removed 107,000 registered voters in 2017 because they may have not voted since the 2008 election. As well as the Georgia “exact match” policy started in 2017, which leaves no room for error- a forgotten hyphen, changes in a married or maiden name, or even a typo- could immediately result in suspension from registration.

While none of these policies strictly bar voters from registering or voting at the polls, they cause confusion and misunderstanding between citizens, leading many to skip trying at all and stay home during the election. Brian Kemp denies this, repeatedly returning to the issue of voter fraud when names listed are actually deceased or have moved from the state.

Georgia isn’t the only one with similar policies, nine other states followed suit in passing legislation that allows striking a citizen from voter registration because of not voting in previous elections or a mismatch in photo identification. For example, in Ohio, you can be removed from voting registration for skipping one single election. Early this year the Supreme Court upheld such policy, ruling that such rules are in line with the nationwide Voter Registration Act.

Such policies are supported in a largely partisan divide, with Republicans advocating for constant maintenance of voter rolls, and Democrats arguing that while its important to maintain the voter rolls, clearing names who have passed away, moved, etc., there should be less effort put into regulating voting than encouraging people to head to their poll sites.

One can only wonder the impact such an effort made by Kemp and others on behalf of voter fraud could have when focused on motivating and registering possible voters, especially in midterm elections, where only about 33% of voters participate. All the midterm election date draws near, the eligible voters in Georgia themselves will have to determine what they value.