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By Sarah Naidu
The closely contested governor’s race in Georgia has attracted national attention because if Democrat Stacey Abrams were to win, she would become the nation’s first African-American female governor. However, this race has highlighted a larger problem of voter suppression.
The Republican candidate for governor, Brian Kemp, has faced allegations of suppressing minority voters. Kemp is currently Georgia’s Secretary of State — an office in charge of voter registration and the voting system — and has faced calls to leave office due to the election; however, Kemp refused to step down and denied the allegations of voter suppression.
Kemp’s office utilizes a policy of “exact match” in order to verify each voter registration applicant. The policy of “exact match” holds each applicant’s voter registration to completely match their information with the DMV or the Social Security Administration. A misspelling, a deletion or addition of a character, or a mismatched signature will automatically place the non matching applicants on hold.
However, 53,000 voter registration applicants were halted after not being an “exact match” and 70 percent of those halted voter registrations were from African-American applicants. African-Americans make up 32 percent of Georgia’s population, meaning that a significant number of black voters were affected by the halted voter registrations. The racial disparity in that figure is absolutely astounding, as a significant amount of minority applicants were prevented from voting.
Through Kemp defends his policies regarding voter registration in order to maintain “election integrity,” Stacey Abrahams calls them “a remarkable architect of voter suppression.” Kemp’s actions seem to fall in line with the latter statement as preventing the vote of those who are eligible to vote is voter suppression.
However, this is not one isolated event; rather it is a part of the larger dialogue of voter suppression, ranging from a bus full of black senior citizens unable to vote early in Georgia to North Dakota where thousands of Native Americans won’t be able to vote because of a lack of residential address to so many other states with voter-ID laws such as Georgia.
These laws don’t ensure the integrity of elections; they ensure the silencing of a democracy. Voting is paramount to a democracy, but how is it a democracy when minority votes are suppressed?