A federal court on Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order blocking election officials in Georgia from throwing out the absentee ballots of voters with supposedly mismatched information.
The decision was in response to two lawsuits brought by voting rights advocates who argued the policy was politically motivated and would result in potentially thousands of voters having their ballots improperly rejected.
The lawsuits were filed after it was revealed earlier this month that Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office placed tens of thousands of voter registration applications on hold and purged the records of voters whose records contained minor clerical errors or mismatched information.
Under Kemp’s “exact match” policy, information on voter applications must precisely match information on file with the Georgia Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration. If a typo or clerical error is found, or if a resident moved and their records have not been updated, their voting records or applications can be tossed out.
An analysis from The Associated Press reveals racial disparity in the process. Georgia’s population is about 32 percent black, but nearly 70 percent of the voter registrations on hold in Kemp’s office are those of black voters.
Kemp is running in a tightly contested race for Governor against Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams, who is seeking to become the first black woman to be elected governor of Georgia.
In an audio recording leaked to Rolling Stone magazine Tuesday, Kemp told supporters in a closed-door campaign event that Abram’s voter turnout operation “continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.”
Judge Leigh Martin May of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ordered the state to stop throwing out ballots without giving voters an opportunity to contest the determination and confirm their identity.
This ruling protects the people of Georgia from those who seek to undermine their right to vote. It’s a huge victory — especially with the midterms just days away.
— ACLU (@ACLU) October 24, 2018
The state has not notified applicants or registered voters when their records have been tossed out, meaning thousands of voters could turn up at the polls on November 6 only to find they are no longer registered voters.
Early voting in Georgia began on Monday, and the state has already rejected nearly 600 absentee ballots, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
“They have been purged, they have been suppressed, they have been scared,” Abrams said of the voters who have had their ballots or applications denied.
In a recent appearance of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” Abrams called Kemp “a remarkable architect of voter suppression.”
Since 2012, Kemp’s office has erased the voting records of over 1.4 million people, including 670,000 in 2017 alone.
Kemp has claimed that the assertions that his office is intentionally trying to suppress votes are a “farce” and claimed without evidence that Abrams is encouraging non-citizens to vote.