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Minority lawmakers threaten call to DOJ if ‘voter suppression’ persists

‘This is a crisis’

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African-American state lawmakers are demanding answers from Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp about the uncertain status of tens of thousands of voter applications gathered by a nonprofit focused on getting minority voters to the polls on Nov. 4. And they’re vowing to get the U.S. Justice Department involved if Kemp’s office drags its feet on the issue.

Earlier this morning, secretary of state staffers met with members of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus to answer questions about an estimated 51,000 unprocessed voter applications submitted by the New Georgia Project, a group currently under investigation for several dozen confirmed and suspected forged applications. NGP, which is chaired by House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, has reportedly submitted around 85,000 voter applications to county election officials in Georgia.

Kemp staffers told the GLBC they planned to “move expeditiously” to ensure the remaining 51,000 applications would be processed by the Oct. 6 voter registration deadline. But state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, D-Lithonia, says the office was unable to provide adequate details about how that process would be carried out due to the office’s pending NGP investigation.

She urged Kemp to work on processing the registration forms, some of which were submitted to county election officials as early as last spring, through the state’s system in a timely fashion using whatever means necessary.

“The right to vote is a fundamental thing in Georgia,” Dawkins-Haigler told reporters. “We do not take it lightly, nor will we allow the secretary of state’s office shirk their responsibilities in making sure that our citizens are not disenfranchised.”

Dawkins-Haigler also criticized Kemp’s probe as an overblown response given that only several dozen suspicious applications were found out of 85,000 total submitted forms. She added that Kemp’s office “tainted the waters” by sending letters to 159 counties discussing potential fraud by NGP.

“That was disingenuous at its very inception,” Dawkins-Haigler said. When asked about Kemp’s motives, she added: “You have to understand that this is an election year. And those registration forms, they probably are minorities and may be people who tend to vote a certain way. It’s a political game. When you are charge, when you are the one making the shots, you’re going to do what’s in your best interest to maintain your power.”

In a press release late last week, Kemp denied reports that his office had “targeted” NPG and said all of the complaints had come from county election officials. He issued a list of “fact checks” to dismiss what he said was false information in multiple media reports.

“We will vigorously and thoroughly investigate this and any situation involving possible voter registration fraud,” Kemp said in a statement. “I was elected as Georgia’s secretary of state to ensure secure, accessible and fair elections. I will never retreat from that constitutional duty and obligation.”

State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, who last week lashed out at Kemp following an emergency State Elections Board meeting, continued to slam the secretary of state for his “voter suppression” efforts.

“This is a crisis,” Fort said. “I have been out at polling places on Election Day where people have been turned away. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes when they want to vote and they’re told they can’t vote. That ought not to happen to any Georgian.”

If Kemp’s office doesn’t resolve the issue, Dawkins-Haigler said, the GLBC would consider contacting the U.S. Department of Justice to make sure “there isn’t any shady business going on” with how the secretary of state’s office processes the voter applications.